Ugly Truth: The Local Newspapers Deserve to Die

Ugly Truth: The Local Newspapers Deserve to Die

That Internet Rascal! I Shall Drub Him Soundly in Next Month's Edition!

I can hear the screams and cries now… “WE NEED OUR SMALL TOWN NEWSPAPER! IT IS THE VERY LIFEBLOOD OF OUR COMMUNITY!”

Well, all fine and good, but if you really feel that way, you need to pick up four or five subscriptions soon.

What is destroying the Alpine Avalanche? Internet news? Maybe. Television news? Maybe. A younger, hipper audience that doesn’t enjoy reading? Maybe.

CRAMPED UNATTRACTIVE BLACK AND WHITE ADS WITH DULL UNINSPIRING COPY? DEFINITELY.

When was the last time you leafed through our local paper and saw a vibrant colorful ad that just made you want to BUY BUY BUY. Don’t answer… I know the answer… NEVER. Newspaper advertising is virtually useless in every circumstance. As a consumer, surely you must believe this. After all, WE TALK ABOUT TELEVISION ADS around the water cooler at work. When was the last time you talked about a newspaper ad?

In addition to dull, un-inspired black and white ads that take up 80% of the bulk of the paper (hey, let’s be fair and count those four-page inserts as part of the paper– after all, you get them in your mailbox or take them home from the gas station) there’s also dull, uninspired black-and-white articles on very dull subjects.

Compare this to: Alpine Daily Planet. ADP is: free, searchable, commentable, and full of interesting articles and color photography. Also, it’s done with a staff of one semi-retired guy. MIKE IS PUTTING ALL OF OUR LOCAL NEWSPAPERS TO SHAME WITH THE QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF HIS OUTPUT ON THIS SITE!!!

I was the first guy to put the germ of this idea in Mike’s head AND HE HAS TOTALLY SURPASSED MY EXPECTATIONS!

There’s so little real news out here, that our self-appointed regional fully-staffed newspaper (the Big Bend Gazette) is a monthly. Personally, I play a little drinking game with the Gazette.

Big Bend Gazette Drinking Game

I take a drink:

  • Every time I catch a typographic error that would make a third-grader blush
  • Every time I see a pixelated, ugly, black-and-white advertisement with poorly-written copy
  • Every time I read an article that is totally irrelevant because the action in the article took place over a month ago
  • Every time I read a dopey puff piece on some local event that no one really cares about
  • Every time I read an article that takes place outside the Big Bend (come on, stick to your region)
  • Every time I read a dopey poem about yuccas or moths or some shit

This is a fun game to play because you will end up blind drunk in three pages.

Our local newspapers are like Old Yeller. They have been loyal faithful servants who must now die. Shed a tear, shed a tear.

10 thoughts on “Ugly Truth: The Local Newspapers Deserve to Die

  1. Dean Philpot

    The ugly truth is most all media has committed suicide. They are no longer a credible source of information. Years ago I worked for the Dallas News and the now defunct Times Herald as saw what a joke journalism was. It’s an illusion. It’s propaganda. The bird died . I no longer need the cage liner nor the warped trash they pretend is truth. I trust the editorial judgement of almost anybody that will risk the wrath of the public with their name and reputation to publish a news blog. Take care of the blogger, they are all we have left of the 4th estate.

  2. Andrew Suber

    Thank you, good sir.

    Luckily I breed chinchillas in my basement and journalism is only my sideline.

    My editorial policy is simple: whatever fleeting scraps that can survive more than a moment in the decayed mush of my brainpan are scrawled down in a nickel Big Chief tablet. I then call Wing Wu, my Oriental valet, who transcribes them to Pittman shorthand. After a leisurely lunch, I look over the flashes of brilliance and publish them just as you, my lucky and adoring audience, see them.

  3. Edith Ann

    How can you even compare this rediculous website to our local papers.

    The local papers are chock full of interesting and informative articles.

    Just this week in the Alpine Avalanche they had Neil Sperry’s excellent gardening column for Texans. They had a great column on quilting as well. Of course, they have the obituaries which are necessary for knowing which members of our community have departed for heaven. Also, they have a list of every church in town which is good for promoting religious observation. Oh yes, I almost forgot about the column on astronomy.

    West Texas Weekly doesn’t have a tenth of the excellent columns that our ‘home town’ newspapers have.

  4. Andrew Suber

    I hate to tell you this, Newspaper Fan, but not one of those features is created by the staff of the Avalanche.

    They are syndicated columns. The obituaries are written by family members and the funeral homes.

    Although I am sure that they provide entertainment to you, you could also read them for free online.

  5. Mike Perry

    One of your more thought-provoking articles, Andrew, which is saying a lot. And I mean that in the best possible way. Local newspapers — the print versions — have a place, but they are hampered to the extreme by debt loads, which limit staffing, which limit news coverage, which limit any kind of writing that rocks the boat.
    They also are tied to a business model that relies on advertisers who will drop their support at the slightest hint of controversy (I’ve been there).
    And they are, for the most part, corporatized and/or run by journalistic illiterates. Today’s newspapers are businesses first, businesses second and businesses third.Serving as the fourth estate has become a no-starter in the industry’s corporate environment. Raising the public’s awareness is lost to but a few Don Quixotes. (Speaking of, if you want to see that their actually is hope for daily journalism, take a look at the Bakersfield Californian (circ. 80,000) — great newspaper, independently owned by someone who cares deeply about her community and region and staffed by people who understand that “news” is the key word in their industry. And they actually make money doing it.)
    As long as print newspapers (a) carry huge debt loads and (b) cater to the whimsy of advertiser moods, they will continue sliding to extinction. I have more hope for the small newspapers because they carry the mom-and-pop-and-the-kids type of information that people clip for their scrapbooks.
    But somewhere along the line we need to find a way to give small newspapers the ability to cover the tough stuff, plus allow them to be downright strange on occasion. We need to issue each and every one a set of balls. I wish we could find an alternative to the advertising model but I don’t think that’s going to happen, which leaves me sorely depressed.
    It’s not that I’m against advertisers and business owners — I respect the bejesus out of them. But they seem to think that because they advertise in a newspaper, they can tell that newspaper what to do. A good newspaper cannot survive under those conditions; a mediocre newspaper can.
    I have hope for internet newspapers because the costs are sooooo much lower. Four things to remember, though, about Internet newspapers:
    a. They must still practice good journalism. Facts, truth-based opinion, no lying, no agendas, transparency, openess and respect for all POVs (points of view).
    b. They must build audiences amidst a veritable tsunami of competitors.
    c. They must be entertaining, while being informative. I’ve been saying this for 30 years. A newspaper — online or print — should have its readers saying to themselves: “What in the world do they have in store for me this time.”
    d. They must develop a bullet-proof advertising model.
    I am confident all those things can be done except the last one. Even there, though, I have hope.
    One last rant and then I’ll shut up. Newspapers (print, Internet, broadcast) must find a way to get us out of the “Fox News” hole. I firmly believe that I am not understating the case when I say: Fox News is well on its way to destroying what was good about America. They are akin to something out of a bad science fiction novel. They lie, they cheat, they steal, they mislead, they distort — and the masses follow with grins on their faces. It’s like pigs to slaughter. Fox News is NOT journalism; Fox News is kinda like Joseph Goebbels with a Harvard MBA.
    Sorry for the babble; probably makes no sense whatsoever.

  6. Andrew Suber

    Some good points, as always, Mike.

    I think you are pasting the tar out the Avalanche with a microscopic budget/staff.

    I also think that a lot of assumptions that folks had about journalism to begin with are mistaken. The cultural degradation that FOX news represents was going on in the translation of news to the TV format and to the syndication of national columns.

    All my viewing data on this site seems to suggest that my readers would rather have a negative, tongue-in-cheek slant on particular issues than an endless cavalcade of press releases and events. Frankly, it’s easier and more fun to do that.

    Don’t worry… Science Geek Week and Kosmic Karma Soul Brother week will redeem me.

  7. Mike Perry

    I think I agree with everything you just said. The Daily Show provides the best news coverage in the nation today — print, broadcast or Internet. And it’s on the Comedy Channel and hosted by a stand-up comic. I love the show.
    You know, there’s one thing in particular they do that is very, very basic journalism, something I was taught in my first year on the job. Unfortunately, it’s also something journalists got away from because corporate ownership couldn’t stand the heat. And what is that something? Well, they hold people accountable for what they say? They have the balls and priorities to go back and match what our leaders said then vs. what they say now. They hold them accountable. And when someone lies, they point it out, which is something news organizations no longer do.

    Also, my intent wasn’t to criticize the Avalanche. Far from it. Given the resources and, more importantly, the marching orders they have from corporate, they fulfill the mission demanded of them by their key stockholders. That’s what they do and it makes them a lot of money. They’ve simply taken one path to what they consider to be success. Me? I make no money and do it only because I need something to do. Social Security pays for the roof over our head and a few beans to eat.

  8. Matt

    I beleive that politics had a strong hand to play in the slow but steady decent of print news sources much the same way it is playing a role in destroying television news. Polls taken in recent years show a rising distrust of political content. It seems that everyone feels that their values are not supported or that the information is misleading to the disadvantage of their personal political standing. So when the news papers have no credible content (not necessarily of their own volition) then they are left to the devices of what they feel the community wants to hear regarding local events (puffy advertising for bore-fests) as well as making sure the people who pay their wages with advertising and word of mouth support or use of services.

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