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 Rather than respond to the changes in the industry brought by online content, they cling to outdated models and methods as the print edition slowly diminishes to convenient birdcage size.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!

Editorial: Let's hope new Lowe's trees take

Today's experiment in automatic writing by the unnamed Courier editor scores about par with his handicap. What amuses me is that the Courier once again fails to acknowledge its cheerleading for the Lowe's deal, including the laughable (and ultimately frightening) engineering plans for both ends of that property. You helped make this happen, guys, and you'd gain some props for admitting it, doing more to help get it cleaned up, and using your editorial clout to help prevent future atrocities.

Recorder's Office warns of solicitation letters

Here's another case where the story and the headline don't match. From the headline we expect to read about another scam going around. From the story we find out that our bureaucracy is specifically saying it's not a scam. Was this just a clumsy way of drawing eyes to an essentially boring story, or yet higher-order incompetence in the headline department, which has been the running away goofup leader this year? You call it.

Rodeo madness

Just to remind everyone, I don't care about sports, even when it's covered as news, although I'll also warn you that when you read about sports outside the sports pages it's probably because someone pays the paper a lot of money for it hoping to sell you something. I'm particularly skeptical about sports that involve the abuse of animals, and I just hope one day we will have evolved beyond that, or at least properly criminalized it.

Chamber names tobin top representative

It looks as though this Tobin press release went straight to print without so much as a glance by an editor, which I fear is pretty close to standard practice in the Courier office these days. You couldn't even get the Representative's name properly capitalized in the headline? Really? If I was Mr Maurer, I'd be looking for a better return on the Chamber's money than that.

The key question for readers: How exactly is this news?

Kinkade Gallery gets a good front-page brown-nosing

Regular readers see these Courier-style infomercials frequently, but not so often anymore on the front page and rarely with so many smarmy poeticisms adding spittle to the advertiser's bootlicking. I recall the Courier's embarrassing paean to anti-artist Kinkade last year as well. Since other regular quarter-page buyers don't get this sort of attention, I have to wonder what this particular company has on the editors. Maybe they're just entranced by bad art.

Tuesday open thread

I don't intend to write on everything that comes up, but the plan is to put up one of these every day so you can share what matters to you and point out what I've missed. When I get time, I'll add links to the piece you're referencing if you don't know how.

Return of the Unwelcome Ombudsman

With one exception this blog has been off air for about a year and a half on the theory that the Courier's opening of a full commenting feature would make it directly accountable to readers where it wasn't before. So I gave that a good solid try, and while there is certainly more reader response going on now and evidence that the Courier editors respond to it, I've directly confirmed the rumor that they still refuse to respect readers enough to follow a consistent and reasonable comments policy. Instead they are maintaining the practice they've always followed with letters, and that is to edit them as they see fit, without regard for the reader's expression or even intent, and without admitting they've done so. That's against the rules and custom of modern journalism. So I'm back here, where at least I can say what I think needs saying without the risk of censorship or respins by second-rate hacks who've forgotten what integrity feels like. Welcome to Courierwatch v2, readers, you few but mighty.