Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Please don't take away my newspaper news!

7/10/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Last month, “The Oregonian,” our state’s longest continuously published newspaper, announced it would change its focus from conventional print to Internet news. Citing revenue losses of nearly 50%, financial advisors decided that cutting the payroll (journalists, support personnel and printing costs) and going online will somehow revive the business’ bottom line.

Since the disastrous downturn in the economy, this country has lost many prominent community voices in my favorite print publications. According to “Newspaper Death Watch,” 12 major metro dailies have closed their doors and another 12 are W.I.P. (works in progress) i.e. reducing their frequency of publication or adopting hybrid online/print or online only models—all since 2007.

The Oregonian’s new delivery configuration (announced by Advance Publications, Inc. the paper’s parent company) is difficult to understand. It seems that they will continue to print seven days a week. However, home delivery to 170,000 subscribers will only be on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday along with a so-called bonus delivery on Saturday.  City newsstands (selling about 15,000 per day) will receive deliveries on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

I know this is going to make me sound like a Luddite (one opposed to technological progress) but I hope this doesn’t work. I have seen this happen in other media and publications. Those in power fire most of the veteran journalists and replace them with inexperienced, lower wage employees. Quality, all-around news coverage gives way to quick low-news briefs along with lots of AP–type syndicated news.

I love a daily newspaper with extensive reporting and a balance of local, national and global news: the obituaries, the comics, a variety of columnists, sports and the classified ads. And yes, I do read on-line news but mostly for the global perspective that I get from such websites as www.reuters.com. It’s a great resource.

So I don’t understand this generation’s lack of reading loyalty. Growing up in Los Angeles, I cut my news teeth on the L.A. Times. I was so addicted to reading their great variety of news that when we moved to Ventura in 1964, I subscribed to the Sunday Times by mail. (That quickly ended because it took 10 days to arrive at our house!)

Whether local or syndicated, I like my news fresh, interesting and trustworthy. A good newspaper can do that. In California recently I read The Tribune, San Luis Obispo. It was exciting to see the Oregon Women’s Track and Field team in color on the front page of the Sports section and read about the NCAA finals in Eugene. A real treat for a visiting Oregonian.

Another day, I read about vandalism in America’s National Parks. “Trashing Treasures” described how in Saguaro National Park, Arizona, park rangers were finding subway-style graffiti in the spiny forest. Recently, 45 of the park’s towering cactuses had been sprayed with black paint. That could be a death knell to the 150-year-old plants if the paint covers the green skin where they store chlorophyll to draw nourishment from the sun. I didn’t know that.

There was also some military news harking back to the days when I lived near Camarillo, Calif. and fighter pilots from Saudi Arabia were being trained at a nearby airport. If it was strange then, imagine how we would feel now. This news brief came from San Diego:

 “Japanese troops to train on California beaches…they will converge on California’s southern coast…as part of a military exercise with U.S. troops aimed at improving that country’s amphibious attack abilities.” The training was in response to China’s growing military might. China protested the event. Nevertheless, the drill with three Japanese warships: 1,000 service members and four combat helicopters was going to proceed. Forces from New Zealand and Canada were also taking part.”

Now, it’s true I might have been able to read the above on the Internet but it wouldn’t have had the same impact on a screen as holding it in my hand does.

My favorite on-the-road column was in the “Paso Robles Press” titled “It’s The Pitts” by Lee Pitts. It was a “can’t we all get along?” piece. Pitts, the editor of “Livestock Market Digest,” has written books such as “People who live at the end of Dirt Roads,” “Back Door People” and “These Things I Wish.” Here’s a few excerpts addressed to bridge the gap between urban and country folks:

“I’ll take the time to learn more about you if you’ll take a minute to learn about me.”

“I’ll try and keep my cows off the highway if you won’t dump your kittens off at the end of my road. We already have a cat.”

“I won’t ruin your neighborhood by moving a feedlot next door to your condominium if you won’t move next door to my feedlot and ask me to get out of town because I stink.”

“I will grant the power companies and telephone companies easements so you can have electricity and make phone calls…but please close the gates.”

“I will feed and water the wildlife for us all to enjoy but please don’t cut down my fences. And hunters, don’t shoot my cows. (They are the ones that look hungry.)”

I won’t throw my Lone Star bottles on your front lawn if you won’t throw your Bud Light cans in my front pasture.”

“I will buy your Chevrolet if you will buy my beef. Let’s all buy products “Made in America.”

I love his perspective. Columnists like Pitts make me laugh and think. So keep buying newspapers, folks. We don’t want to wake up some morning and say, “Where did my newspaper go?”

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

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