hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


News & Issues November 2021


Telling people’s stories in print

Retired editor ponders newspapers’ decline, collects columns in new book


Ken Tingley, the longtime editor of the Glens Falls daily The Post-Star, says the stories of local people are the lifeblood of journalism. Courtesy photo by Jenn March


Contributing writer


Ken Tingley, who retired last year after more than two decades as managing editor of The Post-Star, still enjoys reading a daily newspaper from front to back each morning.
But he fears that within a decade, as daily papers continue to cut staff in the face of declining revenue, he might be able to indulge in that pleasure only once a week.
“Maybe it ends up being a weekly,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to see it disappear.”

He envisions a weekly print edition being filled with in-depth and investigative features, human interest stories and columns -- the type of journalism that historically added value to daily newspapers but has fallen by the wayside as the industry cuts costs. Those vanishing elements of journalism, he suggested, are just as vital as reports on breaking news.
“We tend to look at this as events and issues, but it’s people,” Tingley said.

Tingley retired in July 2020. He had worked at the Glens Falls paper for 32 years, including 21 as managing editor. He continued to write a regular column until his retirement, and over the years his writing was recognized with a lengthy series of awards from various journalism organizations.
But as daily newspapers have gone into decline over the past 20 years, columnists have been among the first positions cut. And beat reporters now have so much territory to cover that they don’t have time for in-depth reporting.

In retirement, Tingley has been revisiting his own column writing as he muses about the future of newspapers.

He described how, in 2008, the Rev. Paul Mead, pastor of Gospel Lighthouse Church in Hudson Falls, contacted him at a time when Tingley was considering writing some human-interest columns.

“I said, ‘I really need to get back to real people,’” Tingley recalled.
The pastor wanted to tell his story about recovering from drug addiction.
Ordinarily, this was the kind of story Tingley would have referred to a reporter or columnist to pursue, but he decided on a different approach.

“I said, ‘You know what? I’ll do this one myself,’” he recalled.
Soon the agnostic editor was narrating the experience of a Pentecostal preacher who believed he had literally seen Jesus. Tingley related it with a hint of skepticism, but the story was moving.
“That’s part of the role of a writer or columnist – to tell people’s stories,” Tingley said. “That’s something that is slipping away from newspapers.”


A collection of columns
Tingley recently compiled an anthology of 83 of his Post-Star human interest columns in a new book, “The Last American Editor,” published by Something or Other Publishing.

The book title came about from a conversation with his publisher in which Tingley pointed out that the position of managing editor at The Post-Star was simply eliminated when he retired.
“I happened to mention to my publisher, ‘I wasn’t replaced,’” Tingley recalled.

He said the book title isn’t intended to imply that he specifically is the last American editor, but rather that his experience is a metaphor for the decline of printed daily newspapers.

Tingley also has written another book, “The Last American Newspaper,” expected to be released next year, about in-depth news stories Post-Star reporters wrote over the years -- and how those stories made a difference in the community.

“It’s really a memoir of the great work that was done at The Post-Star and the people who did it,” he explained.

Tingley said daily print newspapers face two challenges.
The major problem is that retail advertising revenue has dwindled to the point that the industry is no longer sustainable.

“The business model is broken,” he said.
Another challenge is that reader habits are changing.
Many people no longer sit down and read a daily newspaper from cover to cover in the morning but instead get their news on their phones or computers in “little snippets of 20 or 30 seconds” at a time, Tingley said.

“It comes back to the simple habit of reading a newspaper,” he said.
Ken Tingley’s book, “The Last American Editor,” is available at area bookstores including Battenkill Books in Cambridge, Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs and the Chapman Museum in Glens Falls, and also online.