The husband and I have been saying for months that we really should cancel the newspaper. We only take the weekend paper, which includes Friday, which we never read. Saturdays: ditto. But Sundays… it will be hard to give up the ritual of sitting together at the breakfast table for an hour or two, with the cat, sipping coffee, commenting on how Dilbert is simply too true to be a comic strip, grousing about the antics of local politicians.
Our paper hasn’t been itself for a long, long time. It used to have real, gutsy, investigative reporting, like when Jerry Thompson infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and lived to tell about it, until cancer got the fine reporter far too soon. The paper once was helmed by John Seigenthaler, a brilliant liberal light. Now, the paper is filled with sanitized, Gannetized snippets, ads for laser eye surgery, and Ms. Cheap advice. The hubby says the sports page is hardly fit to read, but I’ll have to take his word on that. Often, before I see something in the paper, I’ve already seen it five times online, along with several arguments about it on Facebook.
What passes these days for journalism is mostly press-releases published verbatim, opinion, and truth twisted so far out of shape as to be unrecognizable. This is not new–it hearkens back to the days of pamphleteers and yellow journalism–it’s just faster, louder and more ubiquitous. Somewhat respectable online sources like The Huffington Post don’t pay their writers; even such high-level blogging doesn’t leave much time for research when the writer isn’t getting paid. The venerable New York Times is stepping behind the paywall; we’ll see if people will pay for real journalism and good, thoughtful writing.
It’s a death spiral…shrinking circulation means less ad revenue which means less money to pay writers, which means nothing worth reading, which means shrinking circulation; even I can do that math. My eye doctor told me he canceled his paper and they called, begging him to take it for free, presumably to pump up the circulation figures. 30 years in advertising tells me that unpaid circulation is as good as no circulation, turning the local paper into “driveway mulch” with no writing fit to read.
For now, we’re still taking the local paper. At $12 per month for the weekend subscription, it’s cheaper than going to the movies, and occasionally more entertaining. Did you see the story about the local legislator who wants to give our great state its own currency? Priceless.