After two back-to-back blizzards, I finally get it. After 12 years of working for weekly community newspapers, and my own travel magazine, I have to admit I am a print diehard. But, over the past year, I have witnessed the demise of 67 newspapers. Even two magazines that I've been affiliated with have ceased their print products. I am finally getting how this new age of media really is about delivering the message in a different way, not just shoveling content from the printed page to a Web site.

At the beginning of 2009, I was definitely intrigued by how many businesses were joining in the chatter of the social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. By the summer, I joined in the chatter -- not sure why, but knowing I had to be part of it.

Now I get it. Last week, due to the forecasted blizzard to begin Tuesday afternoon, I pushed to finish up my newspaper, The Prince George's Sentinel, before the snow started. I met our print deadline and put the content on the Web before the first flake fell late Tuesday afternoon. In the past, that would have been good enough. In the past, I would have called it a week and begun to think about the next week's issue.

However, this time, I found myself snowbound and logging into my computer remotely nearly five or six times per day. In the past, I would have spent a lot of time on the phone with our freelance reporters and photographers to send in photos and story ideas for the next issue.

This time, I actually realized what engaging your audience meant. I invited our online audience and social media followers and friends to send in photos and comments. I found our readers, at the ready, to send in their comments and photos. Boom! Stories, comments and photos were uploaded to the site within minutes. We were in this together! Our readers didn't have to wait to read about it and see our photos a week later.

Then, as I kept a watch on the TV news and the press releases from the governor's office about various things, I updated the Web site on a regular basis, including up-to-the minute photos. It was exciting.

Yes, I finally get it. Unfortunately, our office staff has shrunk so much that most of this work falls on me. But, that's OK. I'm ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes to stay alive in the profession I love.


Writer steps aside to let others tell their own remarkable stories

When I was in seventh grade, I went on a field trip to the Washington Post. As soon as I walked into the newsroom, I was hooked. This is what I wanted to do -- to be part of a giant news organization that cranked out news for the public. I wanted to give a voice to the people who needed to be heard.

Since I've been in the newspaper industry for 12 years, I have done just that. Even though I never worked for the Post, I have worked for two community newspapers to give a voice to many people who wanted to tell their story to their neighbors.

One notable series of articles I did was on a family going through a very dark journey as their very young son was diagnosed with leukemia. After I told their story in the local newspaper, the community rallied behind them and saw them through the next several years, through two remissions and -- finally -- a bone marrow transplant, which thankfully cured this remarkable young man. I felt very privileged to be part of this family's life and to be able to use my writing skills to give this family a voice and tell their inspiring story.

Since then, I have had the privilege of meeting so many interesting and diverse people to tell others about their challenges and victories. And I do mean it was a privilege. But now, as the new age of media ushered in under our noses, it looks like I will have to step aside and let the people tell their own stories.

Now, using the Internet, people of all ages and backgrounds can tell their own stories through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media. Their voices are being heard by thousands of people with the click of a mouse. Their Internet community can rally behind them -- even though there they may be many miles separating them.

For me, this new year began with the news that my good friend and mentor, Vera Foster Rollo, had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. At 85, she decided to face the end stage of her life with the same dignity in which she lived. A writer, editor, publisher and pilot, this truly remarkable woman's family was able to share her legacy and the valiant way she ended her time here on Earth with her family, friends, and people who have never even met her, across the miles, through a blog provided by the local hospice.

Even though I shall mourn the loss of being one of a privileged few to be able to tell others about ordinary people who do extraordinary things, I now feel privileged to be part of a wider network of people from around the world. I enjoy reading your stories and sharing them with my friends, and I am willing to move over to make room for you.

My only question is: How can I make a living now?