Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The problem with America: Newspapers

I started this tirade or lengthy rant last week and focused on Media and the National Debt. Today newspapers feel my wrath.

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I have worked at a newspaper since the summer of 1998. I have witnessed numerous newsworthy happenings unfold before my eyes both on a local level and nationally. At my first newspaper outpost in rural Minnesota, I saw the influence the newspaper had on the community and how it connected on a personal level with the residents of the community. They catered to advertisers and were at the mercy of anyone with a demand. As employees, we all went the extra mile to make everyone with a complaint satisfied.

I altered photos, which ran free of charge, to women announcing their 50th, 60th and 70th wedding anniversaries because they were unhappy with their hairdo in that particular photograph. I answered angry calls from people who received their paper late or on the sidewalk instead of the doorstep. I sat at our booth during the county fair and peddled subscriptions and received insults about the paper's content. I took much abuse in my nearly five years there.

I also learned what makes a newspaper tick. In the end it, like any other business, is about the almighty dollar. They sold out news coverage to cover the bottom line for a profit. There were days when the newspaper contained only three pages of editorial content (sports, news, editorial-opinion page). Those particular days may have only seen a 10-12 page newspaper but that ratio is still off-kilter. It was a rather quiet area and to push more papers on vendor racks, the front page typically featured a feel-good photograph. It was in no way news but lifted the downtrodden spirits of the mainly senior citizen aged subscriber demographic.

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