Our relationship has been tenuous at best these last years.
At one time we were linked by family. I am free now to leave and come back. Once in a while I pick you up to just to catch up, check the latest, but I am not committed any longer. Not that you have noticed.
You’ve had your own travails, I understand. The economy, the changing modes of communication, it’s been tough and you’ve questioned your own reasons for going forward.
I sympathize. Still, this latest just may be the final effort from me.
Imagine this: A contest announced. The rules stated. The deadline set. The work put in — hours of fun to put all the elements into place. We entered. We waited. We won!
We did celebrate, we told friends, communicated with people who care about our cause, including a board of directors.
Your congratulatory announcement indicated that our entry would be published in you, our hometown paper, Saturday. I wrote you back, sent you additional materials and you told us just how pleased you were and again said to look for a spread in the paper.
My family, primarily our 13-year-old and I, created a diorama of sorts commemorating the 30th Anniversary of my employer, the Food Bank, for your contest in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Peeps. We even made play-dough mini food, for Pete’s sake! We won — how fun is that? — and then a fail on your part.
On the surface this seems like a witless act, but it’s systematic of the spiral you’ve been in for the past 12 years. All your best reporters have been forced out, mistreated or pushed into an early retirement. You had the brain power, the courage, the talent. At one time you won a Pulitzer Prize. We were proud of our paper.
I always believed in print journalism. The power of the long-form, to educate and to inform to make a difference by being the fourth estate that keeps politicians on the record. Print reigned over broadcast because of its ability to delve deep, give background and establish nucleus and consequences thereby engaging readers to know the core of its community. You knew the difference between an editorial and advertorial.
Now who can tell what is an ad, what is a payback, what is a story you print in hopes for a future ad? The lines are so blurry.
You cared, before.
I can appreciate how unsettling the internet has been for newspapers, trying to adapt to the ways people want to receive the news. But what hasn’t changed is that we love our town, our people, our community and our state. We still want news. We want to know what is happening. Instead we have more columnists with opinions than reporters writing the news. You have bought into a culture where personality trumps substance. Long ago there were two papers here. Alternatives that helped the reader obtain the whole picture of our world. Then there was a merger and still one pretty darn good paper. We had Ken, Warren, Mike, Frank M, Rollan, Pat, Frank C. Phil, and Catherine, among others. And you valued the workers. They had your faith and they developed sources, culled out leads and had time to probe into issues. No more.
Oh, there’s talent in your midst, to be sure, yet your employees tell of a long line of consultants who come in with promises of the return to investigative journalism. That reporters will have time for the big projects, to stretch and tell stories that can impact our quality of life. Yet every time the reporter gets teeth sunk into topic he/she is told, no, in fact you just need to file your 10-inch stories day after day, the ones that will bring in revenue. And when the bigger package of stories is finally polished and submitted after your game of red-light/green-light, you hold it and hold it, then you eviscerate it, taking out any part that may be controversial. It’s demoralizing to professional journalists.
And then you wonder why people don’t read you.
It’s not that we can’t read, won’t read, it’s that we are embarrassed of you. Your typos. Your jumps that lead nowhere. A byline that said “Insert Name Here.” On more than one occasion we have seen the same exact story in the very same issue of the paper. That’s rich.
So yes, I’m disappointed for me, for my daughter, for my Food Bank, but most of all I’m disappointed in you. You, the paper my father and brother worked for and you the one I once had hoped our daughters could learn from, work for and contribute to and to make this a relevant venue for people to get the community news. For that I’m most sad.
So the contest is done. Easter has had it’s day — you and I must part our ways. Here, to my readers — I do hereby self-publish the photos of our project this will now be seen by someone, somewhere, just not in print. :