Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Adventures in Be-Mod

Some of my friends really don't get why I spend any attention or effort on the Courier. "Why do you bother with that rag? Nobody with any sense reads it anyway." I've found that last shot to be more on the mark than not. Newspaper circulation and readership is plummeting everywhere, ask anyone who knows, and in our current parlous economy I hear that Courier ad sales are in the toilet as well. Just stick a fork in it, it's done, right?

Well, I make an important part of my living by writing for a newspaper, so I have a direct stake in keeping newspapers alive. Beyond that, I truly believe that local papers are an important part of the glue that holds communities together. So whatever condition it's in today, it's worth saving and improving. No alt-weekly will ever have the kind of effect that a local mainstream daily can.

What ropes me off is that the people most responsible for keeping our local paper alive and healthy are doing such a poor job of it. Rather than respond to the changes in the industry brought by online content, they cling to outdated models and methods as the print edition slowly diminishes to convenient birdcage size. I can put that down to incompetence and failure of imagination. The nub of the rub, though, is that you can't hope to surf the wave of change if your content isn't up to it, and in that area, through incompetence, ego and disregard for the integrity and care that today's more sophisticated readers demand, the Courier editors and many others just like them are actively killing their own papers.

They are a threat to my profession and our community.

I can't fire them, I can't much hope to educate them, and after years of trying it's clear I can't persuade them. All I can hope for is enough readers demanding a better product -- good ol' market mechanisms -- to get them looking over their shoulders and trying to avoid the pain, like lab rats picking the food door that doesn't shock them.

Behavioral modification. -=zap!=- It's fun!

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