"Blogs" vs. newspapers
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 by Ron Cruger
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  I guess you could call the result of this writing a “blog.” I don’t like it to be referred to as a “blog.” I’ve always thought of “blogs” as being personal journals or notes made by a person on his or her feelings about having a dog or going to the gym or planting bulbs or going on a diet. I’ve written about some of these things, but I’d prefer that my assembled words be classified as columns, not “blogs.”
          Somehow saying the word “blog” sounds like the result of an undigested piece of beef or the sound of my garbage disposal’s last effort to chew up and dispose of the dinner leavings. “Blog” isn’t a pretty word – it’s a funny word, but not a pretty one.
          I picture “blog” as what the city street maintenance guys spray on the asphalt to seal it – that black, sticky stuff. We should call that stuff “blog.” Dark, foggy days should be called “bloggy” days.
          Which brings me to my objections that one of the reasons blamed for newspapers failing across our great country is their replacement by “blogs.” I think one of the prime reasons for newspapers closing their doors is because the younger generation doesn’t like to read. Not only do they not like to read – they can’t read very well at all. They can read some of the words set in big type on their computer screens, but seeing a newspaper page, filled with information about the current financial crisis or the genocide in Darfur and they freak out. They want their news short and fast. They want CNN and Fox News and MSNBC to present them with the day’s news amidst exploding balloons, starbursts and splashy graphics. The days of Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid and Tom Brokaw are over.
          Advertisers know what to do. They place their ads where people 18-35 years of age go. Google, Yahoo and a thousand other web sites get the ads. Newspaper classified pages are shrinking thanks to sites like Craigslist and Monster.com. If it isn’t on that screen above the keyboard it isn’t being read.
          The final edition of The Rocky Mountain News carried the headline, “Goodbye, Colorado.” That was the final note after a hundred and fifty years of news gathering and publishing.
          Mike Simonton, a bond analyst at Fitch Ratings, said, “We believe there will be more newspaper group bankruptcies and more newspaper closing over the next two years.”
          Joining The Rocky Mountain News in a trek to oblivion is the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The P.I. folded after one hundred and forty six years of publishing.
          It was announced a few days ago that the San Diego Union Tribune was sold to an investment group. What can an investment group have up its sleeve when they purchase a newspaper today with falling advertising revenues and a dwindling circulation base? Hearst’s San Francisco Chronicle is close to shutting down. Is it really thought that MSNBC or Fox News can take the place of these solid journalistic enterprises?
          Many newspapers have produced profits for their owners of twenty percent and more. As advertising dollars disappeared many newspapers reduced their “newsholes” – The standard of advertising versus news percentage on an average page was fifty percent – half news, half advertising. Today, some newspapers are squeezing news out and running eighty five percent (or more) advertising space per page. Is it really believed that giving the customer (the reader) less for his money will build readership and subscriptions?
          One editor I know, a highly respected professional journalist, said, “I don’t really buy that the internet is killing us. We had chosen to kill ourselves long before the internet began to make an impact.”
          It does seem like economic suicide to reduce pages, up advertising percentages, cut back in the editorial departments, produce a cheaper, lesser product and then wonder why subscription cancellations flood the circulation department.
          What is happening at the Seattle Post Intelligencer is possibly foreshadowing a sad state of affairs for all Americans. The P.I. had one hundred and eighty one employees. As the newspaper closes its doors and starts a web site it will employ twenty in its news department and twenty in advertising sales. Seattle’s news conscious citizens will have to rely on a second and lesser choice for its news.
          Which brings us to offering some direction to the remaining newspapers.
          First. Remember what a Chicago Times editorial stated in 1861, “It is the newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell!” Don’t be afraid of hurting the feelings of a subscriber or an advertiser if the story is called for and newsworthy. The greatest newspapers I’ve seen are fearless. Fear of offending is not the foundation on which great newspapers are built.
          Second. Listen closely to what your editors and reporters have to say about what the content of the newspaper should be. Respect them as they are your most informed contact with your subscribers and readers.
          Third. Respect your subscribers. They know when you’ve cheapened and lessened the product you’re producing. When you put a hundred inches of advertising on a page with ten inches of news your readers know what you’re doing. Do it enough and you’ll drive them to MSNBC, CNN and some unverified, unauthenticated “blog,” written by someone who was not a witness to the incident they write of.
          Fourth. Produce accurate, fearless, well-written copy. Write it for intelligent people.
          Fifth. Instill in your reporters and editors a fearlessness of reporting the truth.
          Sixth. Produce a pride in all staff members in the newspaper they create.
          Seven. Enlarge the scope of Newspapers in Education. Provide free copies of your newspaper to every school, every student, in your circulation area.
          Eight. Make your newspaper invaluable to everyone in your community. Fill its pages with the news that no other medium can present. Make reading your newspaper a necessary ingredient to life in your town.
          Blogs” cannot take the place of a well-run newspaper. A lonely writer, sitting in his den, wearing his pajamas, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes cannot take the place of a well-run editorial staff, headed by a fearless editor, constantly questioning the staff’s submissions. “Are you sure?” “Are you sure?” “Are you sure?”
          Free nations need editors, who are responsible in the last analysis, to the editor’s own conviction of what, whether interesting or important, is in the public interest. I’ve always believed that the most important person in the newspaper should be the editor. They are the life blood, the conscience, the soul of not only that newspaper, but also the community.
          As the great writer, Walter Lippmann, said, “A free press in not a privilege but an organic necessity in a great society. A great society is simply a big and complicated urban society.”
          Lippmann also said, “Without criticism and reliable and intelligent reporting, the government cannot govern.”
          Perhaps from the ashes of a few dead and buried newspapers will rise some even greater newspapers. I am hopeful that this will be the case. America needs our newspapers – perhaps now, more than ever.