Buies Creek, N.C.-The economy had begun to turn down, print media was on the decline and classified advertising had virtually migrated to the Internet when John Drescher took over as Executive Editor of "The News & Observer" in 2007. As the speaker at Campbell University's Friends of the Library dinner on Friday, Sept. 25, Drescher described the state of the paper today and the challenges he had to face in order to survive.
Since its founding in 1884, the N&O has become the second largest newspaper in the state, won three Pulitzer Prizes and developed a reputation as a leader in investigative reporting. But in 2008, like almost every other company, it suffered from a faltering economy. Dreshcer was forced to eliminate 320 newsroom employees and lay off another 70 people to meet the paper's expenses. And although times have been tough, they have also made the paper stronger.
"We're a lot smarter organization than we were," Drescher said. "Crisis forces you to become innovative. Now, instead of being rivals with the Charlotte Observer, for example, we've joined forces, economizing on areas like sports by sending one reporter to cover stories for both papers instead of two."
The paper is also focusing more than ever on its mission of performing public service journalism.
"We have an extremely impressive record on uncovering public corruption," Drescher said. "I'm proud of the reporting done on the Easley case. It led to the resignation of the Chancellor of N.C. State."
In spite of the advent of online journalism, newspapers won't go away for a long time, Drescher predicted.
"It's true that studies show newspapers are read more by older generations, but they will still be around a good while," he said. "As a journalist, it doesn't matter to me where you read us, online or in print, the demand for what we do is greater than ever before."
Formed in 1972, the objectives of the 123-member Friends of the Library organization is to promote the interests of the Carrie Rich Memorial Library and the mission of Campbell University. The organization establishes endowments, purchases books, microforms, computers and other materials for the library.
Photo Copy: John Drescher, Executive Editor of "The News & Observer," speaks at Campbell University's Friends of the Library dinner. (Photo by Bennett Scarborough)