Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How to totally irk newspaper readers

Even though I get a weekly column published in my local newpaper, I don't earn a dime, and I don't even get a freebie copy of the paper to share with family and friends. This doesn't cause me much distress, mind you, since I short-cut by posting my words at my other blogsite and by e-mailing them to those whose feelings and opinions I have valued the longest and the most (if you're not on my mailing list, I will be happy to add you to it -- just send me an e-mail letting me know you'd rather not hunt the darned thing down on the internet, that you'd rather have me bulk up your mailbox... heh).

But this is not, today, about the column and its place in society. The irritation in the back of my neck comes from my local paper as a whole. I now understand why many of my friends who have money refuse to spend the less-than-$100 annual cost to subscribe to the DRA.

I never thought I'd say this, but I miss Iva Kay Horner. Iva was the editor of the Daily Review Atlas (DRA) at the time I returned to my hometown of Monmouth. She had only just taken over the responsibility of editing the DRA, an embattled mess of a paper if there ever was such a thing. She didn't do anything terribly bold or innovative, once in a position of authority (I suspect that was largely due to the fact that she had virtually no budget), but she did manage to present a clean, informed, relatively current journal. There were times when I got the sense she wasn't exactly perfectly fitted for the job, but she managed, while maintaining a rather pleasant manner, to make the paper at least readable -- and occasionally useful.

She accepted a job in Colorado last year, darn her.

Iva's replacement appears to be... how to say this diplomatically? To hell with diplomacy... he's in so far over his head that the entire pelagic zone is up, to him.

The finest examples of this revolve around the most important element in news and comedy: TIMING.
  1. My friend and former professor, William L. Urban, writes columns fairly regularly, as well. Last month, the DRA ran one of his dated columns from back in early September. The reason the editorial staff gave for raiding his archives? They lost the one he sent most recently. They have done this at least four times in the past year (that I know of). He has now adopted the practice of sending his columns and reviews via e-mail, with the equivalent of a sell-by date in the subject line. He marks them with month, day, year so they won't get confoozled.
  2. This past Saturday, 25 November 2006, the front page (print edition only) ran a feature on the upcoming performance by the Monmouth-Roseville High School theatrical department, of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town". The only real trouble with the news article was, the play had been performed the previous weekend! It was over. Done. Finished. Kaput. History. No more. A parrot in a Monty Python sketch.
Several of my friends and I would have liked to have had the reminder of an upcoming local event such as this -- first, because we do our darnedest to support the arts programs at all levels, in our community, second, because we had worked with the director, ourselves, when he first came to teach at Monmouth High School (yes, before consolidation with Roseville), and this was to be the last thing he directed before retiring, and, third, because some of us actually enjoy seeing different interpretations of Thornton Wilder's works.

This is in addition to the current editor actually having made the spit-take-worthy statement in his own op-ed piece that the film, An Inconvenient Truth, "is not propaganda". This is in addition to my having to read about the death of an old childhood friend via a neighboring town's paper, because the local team couldn't figure out how to get info for an obit.

So, here I am, griping about the media, even that of my own home town.

If this marks any kind of media trend, may God help the public who wish to remain informed!

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