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Don't Rush Me


I say, let's get rid of all newspapers


No, really



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March 23, 2011 - I was watching the TV news magazine 60 Minutes this past Sunday. One of the topics was Mark Twain's classic American works of literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

While it has long been a source of controversy since it was published in the mid 1880s ("course" language including the use of the dreaded "N" word), what I learned kinda bummed me out. The publishing house which owns the rights has taken out the "N" word and replaced it with the word "slave."

I really don't have a problem with that, what I have is a problem of changing things in print to make something fit into a later time's "sensibilities."

One of the reasons I dig the newsPAPER industry is once it is in print, it doesn't change. So, the changing of Huck Finn touches me in ways that I don't like. In the newspaper biz, if we do something wrong, in later editions we can make corrections -- but we just don't go willy-nilly making changes because somebody wants us to.

There is an effort afoot by local governments and state governments to do away with placing public notices in print newspapers. The government types are using the economic crap out as an excuse to take away public notices. Public notices are "far" too expensive, government bean-counters say. Let's put them on the internet, it will save us money, they add.

I am so opposed to this idea that I can barely communicate coherently about it. So, let me put it this way.

When asked about public notices, I usually tell two personal stories. Once upon a time I got an email from a local woman who said, her friend was searching the internet and discovered the local's name on our website. The local wanted her name stricken from our site. When I investigated, I found the local had requested some sort of ordinance variance. It was a public notice we published first in print, and then posted on-line.

In other words, it was a public document.

Story two: Some time ago a lad was caught, tried and punished for breaking the law. Your community newspaper, ran the story and posted it on-line, too. Years passed, as they always do. Then one-day we get an email that went something like this, "Dear Sirs, please remove the story about me from your website. I have grown up, matured and I am trying to move on with my life. This story does not help."

In both cases I declined the individuals' requests. But, the point is, I could have easily changed and nobody would have been the wiser. I could have altered history in about three seconds. When I hear government types push to put notices on-line, I always think about how easy it is to change and I cringe.

* * *

Why support a community newspaper by purchasing a subscription or an advertisement when you can get all the news free on-line and you can post your ads, there too -- FREE!?

I believe more and more folks are getting more and more "news" for free on-line. They have more information than ever before, but is that news? Is there "news" in the form of postings on social network sites like FaceBook, MySpace and Linked-in? I put the word news in quotation marks because my definition is different than maybe the average Joe's. I reckon I believe news comes from a trained reporter, not just information, observed and posted. Heck, we even have businesses posting their ads on our Facebook pages.

We have Facebook pages and they are useful, but they are only part of the package we try to offer the community -- which includes print and on-line editions.

How do you think we do that? We pay people. They have jobs, we pay them, you get the goods. That is the way it works. But, should it? It seems more folks these days only want the chamber good news or the chatty social networking gossipy news. They would rather watch Dancing With The Stars than investigate and learn about any issue facing their community.

So, why support a community newspaper? What difference would it make to you and your lives? Maybe we should just get rid of all newspapers, anyway. How would you like that? Let me know. I'd like to see what the community thinks.

Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: don@dontrushmedon.com
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