MINOT, N.D. — From the fourth grade up to my junior year in high school, I rose at about 4 a.m. seven days a week, in all manner of weather, to deliver a hundred or so copies of the Minot Daily News.
After I had finished, I would sit in my parents' kitchen, often sweaty from muscling ad-stuffed Sunday editions through February snowdrifts or humid July mornings, and read our copy of the paper, with a big glass of orange juice, in the early morning dark and quiet.
It started with an interest in the comics, but as I grew, I began to get interested in the news stories too. And, eventually, the opinion section.
In hindsight, I suspect those early-morning interludes helped lead me to my present career, years before it would ever occur to me that I could make a living from writing.
So it was with no small amount of sadness that I read, last week, that North Dakota now has exactly zero newspapers that print seven days a week.
The Bismarck Tribune has announced a shift to printing just six days a week, following a trail toward digital-first news publishing my employers at Forum Communications have already been blazing for some time.
On social media, I saw many greeting this news with a morose tone. As if something has been lost.
Folks, this is not a funeral; this is a rebirth.
The news-consuming masses don't want to wait for it to be printed on dead trees and then hand-delivered to their doors anymore. They want news that's more timely.
They also want more.
When we write about some important documents we've obtained, they want to read those documents too. We couldn't do that in print, but we can sure link to or embed documents in digital.
We can also give readers video, audio, interactive graphs, and far more photos than would ever have fit in a print edition.
For some, this shift in the medium is uncomfortable.
I get it. Old habits die hard.
I started my career in the news business as an exclusively digital writer. I started a blog and built an audience, but as I moved up the career ladder, there came expectations that I produce content for print as well. This was not an easy thing for me. Online I could link and embed and expound with little concern for word limits, or the limiting reality of putting just words on paper.
If you're used to reading the news in a print format, it can feel confusing to consume it online. Yet even there, digital gives us a solution. At Forum Communications, we are continuing to organize our news into a daily print format, only without the print.
You can access these editions in your browser or on your phones or tablets.
There is some understandable melancholy at the demise of the printed newspaper. It's a medium that had permeated our culture. Losing it can feel like, well, a loss.
Digital is better. It's faster, with an already-being-exploited potential for much more thorough and engaging storytelling.
There are downsides. Digital lacks the permanence of print. From an archival perspective, I worry about a time when our proverbial "first rough draft of history" is stored on a computer drive instead of with ink on paper.
Also, this shift toward digital-first news reporting means we in the news business need to start charging for our digital products, something which makes some of you unhappy.
It's not easy to ask people to pay for something they were getting for free.
Still, I'm optimistic. Digital allows us to give you, the audience, more than ever before while simultaneously asking less.
Right now, a subscription to every single one of the news products published by my employers — including dozens of regional news sites — costs you just $10 per month. Less, if you subscribe for a year at a time.
That's the equivalent of $5.88 per month in 1995, the middle of my paperboy career, and far less than any of you were paying for even just one daily newspaper subscription back then.
I will miss the newspaper days once they're finally gone, but I'm ready to lean into the (admittedly imperfect) digital future.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.