'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
HANG IN THERE, OLD FRIEND
In February, the Rocky Mountain News ceased publication. Coloradoís oldest daily newspaper went belly-up a couple of months shy of its 150th anniversary. What a shame. I never read the Rocky Mountain News, so I have no idea what its format and style were like. Also, Iím guessing I probably would not have agreed with its editorial views. (Thatís a safe bet, as I donít agree with the editorial views of just about every daily newspaper, save the New York Post, the paper you are now holding, and the Attila the Hun Daily Chronicle.) But still, the newspaperís demise feels like a death in the family.
Thereís no doubt the newspaper industry is facing serious financial trouble these days. Advertising revenues have plummeted during the current recession. Operating expenses continue to increase. Circulation is down. The numbers just donít add up. Many other well-known publications are hemorrhaging red ink and most likely will share the Rocky Mountain Newsí sad fate.
Here in Connecticut, the stateís largest newspaper, The Hartford Courant, the oldest continuously published paper in America, just slashed its news staff yet again in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. The total number of reporters and editors is now about half the level of a year ago. Great, just what we need during this era of unprecedented political hypocrisy and profligacy: a skeleton crew of watchdogs to keep the pompous pols honest.
Since Iím a freelance contributor to the Republican-American and not a full-time employee, I am not privy to the financial health of the operation. But I pray to God this family-owned jewel weathers the economic storm and continues to be a feisty alternative in the marketplace. By the way, this would be a good time to point out that since I am only a freelancer, contrary to what many readers seem to think, I do not RUN the newspaper. Yes, my work does appear each week next to my dopey little photograph. But that does not in any way mean I call the shots. So please stop sending me notes suggesting which news stories should be covered, asking why I approved a particular page-one headline, and inquiring if my desk is next to Traceyís. (My desk is next to the washing machine in my basement. Tracey, I assume, has a slightly nicer work environmentóbut I could be wrong.)
The saddest part of this whole situation, in my view, is the fact that most people under age 40 have no emotional connection to a daily newspaper. They consider newspapers to be dinosaur technology. Why wait until morning to read what someone wrote the previous evening when you can go online and read the writerís words virtually the moment they are typed out? (Which often means the words have not been spell-checked, grammar-checked, nor fact-checked. But who needs accuracy, competency, and truth as long as you can access it instantly?)
Donít get me wrong, Iím a big fan of digital technology. Iím amazed and delighted by the speed and power of the Internet, iPhones, GPS devices, etc. I get a lot of news and do a lot of research online. But reading a story on a flickering screen is simply not the same as holding a newspaper in your hands. Also, a daily newspaper creates a community bond that is not possible with Web-only news.
I know Iím old fashioned. I know times change. I know horse-drawn buggies must give way to automobiles. But I truly think weíre losing something precious, the value of which we may fully realize only after itís gone. I hope it never comes to that.
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