EXTRA, EXTRA! Lowell Sun Gets the Gooseface

January 28, 2008 at 9:16 pm | Posted in Evil Tribune, Lowell, Lowell Sun | 9 Comments
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papers.jpg(Ed. Note:  This post unintentionally turned into a long, hard slog, and I wound up, in news parlance, burying the lede.  My bad.) 

It’s no secret that the newspaper industry is kinda fucked.  There are more professional, dignified ways to state that.  And many have, or do on a regular basis. 

I’m told that HBO’s “The Wire” has devoted its final season to the newspaper’s demise.  But I wouldn’t know, because less than three years of working at a newspaper left me so poor that I still can’t afford anything beyond the most basic of basic cable packages.

The rise of the Internets and technology is most often sited as the force behind declining circulation, ad revenue, and newsroom staffs.  Corporate boobs atop the masthead lacked the minimal foresight it would’ve taken to see this train roaring down the tracks.  But after years of resistance, they’re finally loosening the vice grip on their piggybanks, and they’ve started to acknowledge that they might have to adjust their thinking.  Or at least start thinking.

As reported by Lucy the Dog man-crush Dan Kennedy, The Evil-Tribune recently announced it will make all of its content available for free on its website, a move that even dumb old Lucy the Dog claimed was a dire necessity before the blond cabal of Tribunazis kicked my sorry ass to the curb.

Publishers are also investing more in their technolomogical capabilities.  Yesterday, Kennedy posted a nifty story about Catherine Keefe O’Hare, an editor at the Danvers Herald.  Kennedy writes:“It wasn’t long ago that a local reporter could head out on an assignment with nothing more than a notebook and a pen. Maybe a camera, but only if there were no photographers available. But those days are rapidly drawing to a close.”

Now reporters and editors like O’Hare get a video camera and editing equipment.  So not only do they have to file that story by deadline, they also have to shoot a short film, edit it, and post it on the website, an increase in workload that is surely reflected in their paychecks.  Or not.

Because it’s also no secret that no one gets into this truly noble profession to get rich.  Or even to break even.  Being a newspaper reporter is a great life if your spouse is a doctor or lawyer.  If you don’t care about little things like spending quality time with your family.  If you aspire to grow man-jugs because you only have time and funds for hasty lunch runs through the Burger King drive thru.  But it’s not the racket you jump into if you’d like a comfortable life.

If I sound bitter about any of this, I guess I am.  I would have loved being a newspaper reporter if I could have made a living doing it.  But it’s a masochistic way of life that’s only getting worse.

tombstone.gif

 Bloggasm reports that 25% of 770 newspaper journalists polled said they intend to leave newspaper journalism, and 36% said they’re uncertain if they’ll stay.  Among respondents under the age of 34, those numbers rise to 31% and 43%. 

According to the study’s author:“Those intending to leave indicate that they will freelance, enter public relations, move into academia or return to school…”

He also mentions that the brightest among them will build media empires around zombies and Kendrick Perkins.

In my opinion, this brain drain from newsrooms is as dangerous a threat as anything to newspapers’ survival.  I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by humiliating wages and 60-hour workweeks.  We were all replaced by equally gifted journalists with ideals and hopes that will also, in time, be squashed.  The cycle of burnout and turnover will continue, resulting in a sad decay of institutional knowledge.  Reporters who’ve been around for years and know their community inside and out will become increasingly rare.  And despite revamped websites, complementary videos, and discussion boards, the quality of coverage in your community will suffer.  But this is not why I’m writing today.

Lucy the Dog does not have the answers to save the newspaper industry.  However, we do have one bit of advice to save the Lowell Sun.  It is profound.  It is radical.  It is so far outside the box that it’s almost back inside the box.  It will blow your mind.  And it appears after the jump.

(No, it’s not weekly inserts of posters featuring sexiest son of a bitch of all-time Charles Nelson Reilly, though that wouldn’t be a bad start.)DELIVER THE GODDAMN NEWSPAPER TO YOUR SUBSCRIBERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As a reader, I can deal with a dopey editor-in-chief.  I can handle grammatical errors.  I can begrudgingly swallow the reckless assault on Sanjaya Malakar.

But it’s really irritating to pay for a paper when you’re never sure it will actually be delivered.I’ve been very patient about this matter.  Though the Lowell Sun would have you believe it’s a morning newspaper, I rarely receive the paper before 2 p.m.  I long ago gave up the fantasy of waking up to enjoy the paper over my morning coffee.newsboyb.jpg

These days I’m relieved when the newspaper arrives at all, usually so late in the afternoon that it can no longer be considered news.

The average tenure for a Lowell Sun paperboy seems to be about two weeks.  They’re usually nice kids, but – here’s a surprise – even nice kids aren’t exactly reliable.  So I feel lucky to get the paper four days out of the week.  Yesterday I didn’t get the paper for the second Sunday in a row.  And the Sunday paper is kinda the one you really want to get, yaknow?

Unfortunately, this was not a surprise.  One week I got my Sunday paper on Monday.  The delivery boy kindly said, “I couldn’t get it yesterday.  So I brought it today.”That’s a sweet gesture and all, but the traditional charm of the newspaper is that it comes every day.  It becomes part of your daily routine.  It’s dependable.

However, the Lowell Sun has managed to trash that old-fashioned notion like…uh…yesterday’s news.  Yeah!

I feel I’ve compromised enough by not complaining about getting the paper so late in the day.  But it’s really asking a lot for your subscribers to pay a full rate for what amounts to a very partial subscription. And if you fuck up this basic selling point – dependable delivery – how can you possibly hope to meet the more complex challenges facing the industry?

I enjoy getting the Lowell Sun, warts and all.  I want to support the industry and the reporters who work their asses off.  I want to know what’s happening in my community.  And I don’t want to rely on their hideous, unreadable website.

But I think I’ve reached the end of the road.  I’m ready to surrender to their incompetence.  Today, I will make the call that I’ve been talking myself out of for weeks.

It is with great regret, Lowell Sun, that today I deliver you the gooseface.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Actually no, it is you.  But I do hope we can still be friends.

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9 Comments »

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  1. I once wrote a throwaway line in one of my stories that mentioned eBay. I was told to 86 it from the story because we didn’t like to “call attention” to “competing platform” that is the Internet. Nothing saves a dying business like pretending your competition doesn’t exist.

    Also, remember that time they said all the reporters should buy home subscriptions to demonstrate our commitment to the paper? That was hilarious.

  2. I remember being very irked they wouldn’t even give us online logins; it was a heavy-handed tactic to get us to buy subscriptions.

    Ridiculous.

    I neglected to draw attention to the fact that, by not buying a subscription, I was in fact demonstrating my (non-)commitment to the newspaper.

    By the way, The Wire’s fifth season (which I am occasionally trying to watch) has an interesting union subtext that I think Lucy would enjoy. Columbia Journalism Review has a pretty neat story about it in the new issue if you’re interested.

  3. Stonge! In the house! Where you been, boy?

  4. My old man tried to buy an online subscription, paid the $10 but they could never get it to work. He went BANANAS. Couldn’t understand how a newspaper could not get the Interweb to work. Totally baffled and irate. It was hilarious.

  5. I’ve been around, I’ve been around.

    Did they give your dad his $10 back, or did that go to fund future efforts at thwarting a living wage?

  6. That $10 went straight to the Santa Fund. By which I mean Karen’s gym membership.

  7. Actually, it went into the tomato and lettuce for the barbeque fund.

  8. I don’t know who any of u are–including Lucy. But pax arcana is a cool name even if I’m not sure what it means (arcane peace? we live in an era when peace is, somehow .. arcane? Now the Pax Romana I understand .. the period of Roman Peace, .. for the record there are as many wars today as ever, no matter how far u look back; it’s only that our present-day wars pose an existential threat to mankind that pre-nuclear era wars didn’t, is all ).
    Anyway, I’m here to defend my delivery of the LS, which 99.999999999% of the time I get to my customers on time .. & which is by 5 p.m., not 2 p.m. as Lucy says, though I’m usually finished by 2:30 p.m. … maybe in Lowell it’s supposed to be delivered earlier? I don’t know.
    Also, and the REAL REASON I even stumbled onto this very, very strange site … does anybody out there know who the East Asian looking young lady is who works as a writer I think at Devens and who I sometimes see in the corner office of the Nashoba Publishing bldg.? Is she single by any chance? Is she “at least” 25 yrs. of age?
    Help me with this info and I’ll gladly rescind all above critical comments.
    Heck, I’d even agree to get Lucy her paper before breakfast!!

  9. […] or their flamboyantly whitebread columnists or their fabulous typos that caused us to give them the final gooseface by canceling our subscription.  It was the simple fact that they relied on 7-year-old children and […]


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