Here what I had to say when I was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame on March 29, 2018:
Thank you. Thank you to a lot of you.
The very first newspaper I worked for had a circulation of precisely one – my grandmother.
I was 11 years old.
Every morning that summer, I got up and wrote her a personalized newspaper – and then delivered it that afternoon.
It consisted entirely of baseball scores.
Fake baseball scores.
I invented my own baseball league and everyday wrote up little sports stories about how the teams were doing, some of which were quite good – the teams, that is, not necessarily the stories.
So I suppose you can say that I invented both fantasy sports leagues – and, perhaps, fake news.
Now that’s maybe an endearing little story that made some of you smile, but, in all seriousness, I worry that the last newspaper I work for will also have a circulation of just one.
Very early in my career, I attended a conference here on the VCU campus. The topic was something like the future of newspapers. The main takeaway that day was that we’d probably be OK, because there would always be 12-year-old boys around to deliver the newspaper. Or, because we were starting to live in an enlightened age, some allowed that there might even be 12-year-old girls who could deliver the newspaper, too.
Of course, what no one knew back then was that someday there would be this thing called the Internet, and that it would eat away at newspaper circulation – and, more importantly, newspaper advertising – like a swarm of termites gnawing at the very foundations of our industry. And perhaps even journalism itself.
At the very time we need independent journalism more than ever.
I am deeply humbled by this honor you have bestowed upon me, because I’m not entirely sure what I’ve done to deserve this. I’m pretty sure it’s not for those fake baseball scores. But I can tell you who does deserve this honor, and I hope someday soon you will be inducting that person into your Hall of Fame – and that is whoever can devise a new business model that will keep journalism alive and prospering.