…or, One reason daily newspapers are in the crapper.
You probably already had an idea that newspapers were in bad shape, for whatever reasons. I have been thinking about this for a couple of days. A little background…
You probably already know my real name by now, even if I don’t use it. If you have Googled my name you probably already know that I used to work at a certain small town newspaper in East Texas owned by an Alabama-based national chain, from early ’07 till I came to San Antonio. To give you a little perspective:
As of February 2007, the paper in question had three beat reporters, two sports reporters (one of whom was the sports editor), a copy editor/page designer, an editor, and a publisher. All of the hourly personnel worked full-time, and the paper printed seven days a week.
As of Thursday, this same paper had two beat reporters (one of whom I am thinking doubled as the copy editor/page designer), one sports reporter (who was also the sports editor), and an editor (who covered various beats here and there). The publisher’s job had long since been eliminated, with the publisher of one of the sister papers taking over that duty for both papers — and as of yesterday, the editor position was eliminated. And the newspaper in question only prints two days a week now. The cherry on top of all this? Since the first quarter of 2009, everyone in the company has had to take five unpaid days off per quarter, which basically amounts to a month of unpaid vacation every year. So, as you see, slashing hours and downsizing has been the name of the game for a good while now. And this particular paper isn’t the only one.
All of this brings me to a certain column from Stephen Dick of the Anderson Herald-Bulletin, whose rantings I (am ashamed to admit) I besmirched the op-ed page with here and there at the behest of the editor. I was curious to see what he had to say after the Sandy Hook shootings, and sweet zombie jeebus, did he deliver:
…let’s go after the NRA. Since the underlying philosophy of the leadership of this group is to have weapons to use against an encroaching government, let’s make the leap and begin investigating NRA leaders for conspiracy to commit treason. Or link them to terrorist acts, which is what Sandy Hook was.
How special. Now, granted, he did specify NRA leaders as the targets of his witch hunt…but who does he think pays the salaries of the NRA leadership? Why, the five million members of the NRA, of course. I don’t think it would be the slightest bit paranoid of the good folks in Anderson, Indiana (and everywhere else this column ran) who are NRA members to read that and think, “Holy shit, this guy’s more or less advocating that I be investigated by the government, thrown in jail and maybe even executed for standing up for my rights.”
How does this sort of thing factor into newspaper staffs being slashed? Well, let’s put it like this: if some newspaper hack wanted to see you imprisoned or executed for political advocacy he didn’t agree with, would you take that, let alone pay for the privilege? I sure as hell wouldn’t. If I were a small business owner in a town in whose newspaper this column ran, I would have been on the phone to cancel my advertising so fast it’d make the heads of everyone in the building spin, not just the ad reps. And of course I’d have cancelled my subscription if I’d been a subscriber.
And believe me, that’s far from the only odious thing Mr. Dick has written. From what I’ve seen, it’s just a steady deluge of bullshit as far back as I can remember. And he’s far from the only one. Such bullshit has run in every newspaper in the country at one time or another, from hundreds if not thousands of different names. People don’t want to read that shit. They don’t want to pay for the privilege of having their beliefs and intelligence mocked by self-righteous assholes who think they know better than everyone else. Now that the newspapers aren’t the only game in town anymore, they’re not doing it, as evidenced by the sorry state newspapers are in anymore.
And yeah, a lot of good people are losing their livelihoods, but when I see things like what Mr. Dick wrote, it makes me think, “it couldn’t be happening to a more deserving bunch of assholes.”