A scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" keeps playing in my head as Columbia prepares to celebrate the centennial of the Missourian and as the newspaper ponders its future.
What - you don't have the 1975 comedy memorized? Well, it goes something like this:
A collector of the dead rolls his push wagon through a muddy street, hollering "Bring out yer dead!" (There's a plague on. Bodies are plentiful.) A large man walks up with a body over his shoulder to put in the cart. That's when the supposed dead guy says:
"I'm not dead."
"'Ere," says the dead collector. "He says he's not dead." To which the large man, hoping still to earn his ninepence for turning over a body, says, "Yes he is."
Increasingly I hear of the demise of the Columbia Missourian from people I meet. The newspaper's advertising manager has even been told the exact date of the demise by clients he's visited.
So let me say this again: The Columbia Missourian isn't dead. It isn't even dying.
The conversation over the summer primarily concerns forming business partnerships for the print edition of the newspaper. The most common scenario has print frequency reduced from seven days a week to five, with heavier concentration of circulation around the three Columbia campuses.
Some other facts:
• Nothing has been decided on whether to form a business partnership with anyone. In fact, just this week a second potential partner expressed interest.
• Missourian editorial is and will be controlled by the Missourian editors. In other words, no matter what happens, you can still blame or praise me and my colleagues for what you see in print or on ColumbiaMissourian.com.
• The online edition will continue as a seven-day-a-week publication.
• There is no date for ceasing publication, because publication of the Missourian isn't ceasing.
Next month, the newspaper's advisory board will convene again to discuss its options. The goals are simple: Reduce the deficit of the newspaper; maintain its editorial mission as a vital information source for the people of Columbia, and train tomorrow's newspaper leaders in today's professional newsroom.
This newspaper is changing. It is and will continue to be a work in progress. In the past few years it has changed its size on the weekends, added a seventh day of print publication, outsourced its printing, redesigned (twice) its Web site, and more.
But the Missourian isn't dead yet. On Sept. 14, it turns 100 years young.
In that clip from "the Holy Grail," the guy-who-would-be-dead progressively pronounces his health. At one point he says, "I'm getting better." And then, "I feel fine." And then, "I feel happy. I feel happy."
It's only after the large man clubs the guy that the original pronouncement of mortality proves true.
I haven't found anyone with a club pointed at the Missourian. Don't think I will.