Lyons: Bet that smart news companies have a future

Never knew there was such a thing as National Newspaper Week, and the irony is that I found out on my Facebook feed.

Aw, thanks, but you really shouldn’t have sent us all of these beautiful gifts, dear readers. And roses? This is too much.

OK, so no one sent gifts or roses. But no one called to curse me out this week, either, which is a magnificent way to mark the occasion. Although ... we did just get a new phone system.

You can find plenty of obituaries on the newspaper business, many of which date to the invention of radio. Of course, the industry is undergoing changes and will continue to do so, and there have been some casualties along the way. That’s nothing to celebrate.

Without news coverage, without scrutiny or professionals asking questions, public entities are free to do to you or your community whatever they feel like doing and don’t feel obligated to explain it to you. Who thinks that’s a brighter future?

So in the meantime, newspapers, including this one, will adapt.

Instead of grousing about social media and online and mobile forms of providing information, they’ll embrace it. The smarter ones will survive.

Most newspapers have a love/hate relationship with their readers and have since Gutenberg – not the guy from the “Police Academy” movies, the guy who invented the printing press. But love them or hate them, newspapers and readers are stuck in co-dependency for the foreseeable future.

And if you still think newspapers are dead, I’d invite you to come answer our phones when delivery is delayed a few hours because of a power outage at our printing facility.

• • •

Video gambling is coming to a dimly lit gin joint near you. Do you imagine many scenarios where you find yourself sitting at a bar stool sliding $5s and $10s into a video poker machine?

Gambling itself doesn’t bother me on a moral level. Sit me in a Las Vegas casino once or twice a decade, and I’m content to park at a blackjack table for several hours in the right company.

And if you have the means to visit frequently and choose to wager your own hard-earned money, then I say, “God, bless.”

Love a good poker game, but there’s real skill involved, and I’ve met some very good players. I also know enough about the game to realize that I’m not one of them and am happy just to play an occasional friendly cash game with no more money than I can afford to lose.

Arlington Park is another fun place to make wagers the size of a fancy Starbucks drink, but for me, it’s more about having a beautiful spot to spend a summer afternoon.

But without casting judgment on the bar or restaurant owners who are taking advantage of the opportunity, there’s something unseemly about Illinois preying on people who you know don’t have extra dough to waste in video gaming machines.

And if you don’t expect that the bulk of the $375 million the state’s anticipated video gaming revenue will come from those who can least afford to lose it, come play poker with me some time.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com.

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