21st century here we come

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Stough
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing commander
You might have read the recent article in Stars and Stripes that talked about base newspapers becoming Web-only products.

When I first received word that the Air Force wanted us to stop publishing a hard-copy paper and instead turn to the Web, my reaction was well short of enthusiastic (a polite understatement).

The e-mail we received from the Air Staff told us that, according to a survey they conducted in the United States, only one-third of the base populations actually read the base paper, and a tremendous amount of money could be saved with the elimination of paper products.

That might be true in the U.S., I thought, but I've been in the Post Office and the BX when the Marauder and Jet48 are distributed on Fridays, and I've seen the number of folks who grab a copy of both on their way out the door.

Not only that, but our paper doesn't cost us any money because it's totally subsidized by advertisements.

In short, we're doing just fine with the paper we have.

Of course, that was just my initial reaction - a pretty normal response when faced with significant change. Once I calmed down and began to reflect on how our society receives information today, I realized a transition to the Web makes perfect sense.

In my own household, for example, every one of us makes a stop at the computer one of our first actions of the day. After I make a cup of coffee and before I head out for a run, I log on to catch up on e-mail, pay bills and catch the latest news. I no longer read a newspaper, relying instead on CNN's Web site and, increasingly, on social news sites like Digg.com.

When my daughters get up, they check their e-mail and look for messages on their MySpace sites before they have breakfast.

I realize my family is a sample size of one, but I suspect we're similar to most of you. We're all becoming very comfortable with using the Web as our primary source for most of our information needs.

With that in mind, I'm no longer opposed to moving the Marauder to the Web.
In fact, I'm becoming pretty excited. Rather than having to spend most of their time worrying about magazine layout, our Public Affairs staff can concentrate more on content.
We'll also become more dynamic in our coverage, posting sports scores the day after the events occur, for example.

And, we'll be able to use Web technology to figure out what you really want to see, which should hopefully mean a better, more relevant, product that squarely meets the needs and desires of our community.

I know, change is hard, and this change will be traumatic for some of you (most especially for my lovely wife Tracey, who keeps telling me, "It just won't be the same").

But I'm convinced that you'll soon be adding our site to your list of bookmarks that you review every morning, whether you're looking for the movie schedule, checking on the latest ITT tour offerings, or even catching the wing commander's latest blog.

21st century, here we come.