M.E. Sprengelmeyer on “Fit to Print”

The Fit to Print team had the privilege of spending a week with M.E. Sprengelmeyer, publisher of the Guadalupe County Communicator, in Santa Rosa, New Mexico last week. M.E. wrote the following piece about us, which first appeared in his paper.

No, it’s not a horror film.

Still, this week you might have seen a small documentary film crew running around downtown Santa Rosa, trying not to terrify the populace as they tell Santa Rosa’s little part in a big, national story.

Adam Chadwick and Derek Callahan are from the film “Fit to Print.”  It gets its name from the New York Times’ motto: “All the news that’s fit to print.”

That’s no accident. Chadwick was working as a copy editor at The Times when he decided to begin chronicling the tough times facing newspapers all over the country.  He watched from afar as papers like the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and Seattle Post-Intelligencer closed, and severe workforce cuts hit most other major newspapers all over the country.

He started working on the project and then, irony hit.  He lost his newspaper job, too.

Perhaps fifty years from now, future Americans will look back at the Not-So-Great Recession as a watershed moment for the old school, ink-on-paper era of journalism.

These next few years will decide whether printed newspapers survive, and whether future generations will ever get the pleasure of having ink rub off on their fingertips while they’re sipping their coffee over breakfast and learning about the world.

M.E. Sprengelmeyer in front of the Guadalupe County Communicator office.

Sprengelmeyer in front of the Guadalupe County Communicator office.

Some might rush to say that the Internet is the future of everything.  I argue that would be terrible for our country, because while the world wide web does expand our brains by letting us travel to far and exotic lands, it lacks the physical presence and local connections to keep us grounded in the communities where we actually live, love, laugh and, yeah, cry.

I still believe that there’s a great future for newspapers that don’t give in to the doom and gloom, and instead try to make themselves more important to the communities they serve.

And so I guess that’s why the guys are here.

It has really been fun watching Adam and Derek running all over town. They live in the big, bright lights of greater New York City, and so it was hilarious taking them on a little tour of Santa Rosa after dark. We drove a couple miles past the airport, into the pitch-black stretch of U.S. 84.  We turned out the car’s lights, parked and as they stared into the brilliant, star-dotted sky, they sounded like every small-town resident who sees the blinding lights of New York’s Times Square for the first time.  “Whoa!  Amazing…”

They’ve been on a frantic pace here in Santa Rosa, and I think they’ve learned as much about our lively little community as they have about our lively little newspaper.

We’re just a small part of the big picture they’re examining.  Next, I think they’re on their way to interview philosopher Noam Chomsky about the media landscape, and they’ll be focusing on a bunch of journalists more famous, more interesting and more photogenic than me and Davy Delgado.  (Even more, I mean…)

If you’d like to follow the progress of their documentary, go check out: fittoprintfilm.wordpress.com [editor’s note: yes, that’s this site].  They also have a fan page on Facebook, where they explain what they’re doing and provide all sorts of updates on the real life drama facing the newspaper industry.

I think it’s great that Santa Rosa and Guadalupe County are getting a little time in the spotlight.

These guys are tireless, and they haven’t been sitting still in our newsroom. They’ve been driving Route 66 and the back roads, popping at City Hall and a whole bunch of other places.

For them, the hard part will be taking hours and hours and hours of Santa Rosa footage and figuring out how to whittle it down.

Lord knows we have more colorful characters than you can fit in the typical Hollywood film.


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