It was the first place, at age 14, I had ever had anything published (a letter to the editor) and now, at 77, it is likely the last. The Daily Hampshire Gazette is a strictly local paper that, like a lot of others, is drip-drip-dripping into the ether. If, in fact, "all news is local," the Gazette was once a pretty good purveyor of news. Nothing too sexy or harsh or upsetting, mind you, but still....
Since I am an old fart who likes having a hard-copy of the paper, it saddens me that others like me should be subjected to the Gazette's desperate moves to maintain income -- cutting staff, dwindling substance and just plain stupidity. Where the printed word once held a revered seat, now it is lost in a miasma of greed and lackluster opinion and coziness.
In the Gazette, articles are increasingly badly written and increasingly meatless. And the rewriting is not much better (eg. a first-reference to a source may allude to the last name of the speaker, but skip his or her first name anywhere in the story). The deepening sadness I have felt came to a head two days ago when a headline and over-line of a sports story that referred to Frontier Regional High School spelled "Frontier" two different ways. I wondered if a gofundme campaign might provide the money hungry with a copy editor or just an editor.
And no, I am not going to do all the research and winkle out the other errors to prove my point -- that is the newspaper's job.
Hard-copy newspapers are still making money, obviously, or they wouldn't continue publishing. I have heard, but don't know, that they are making something in the annual range of 10%, a profit margin that is not as juicy as the good ol' days when they made 20% or better (right up there with nursing homes). But the wolves are at the Internet-advertising door and the Gazette, among others, has resorted to safe-sex reporting ... police blotter, press release, library improvements, another article about Emily Dickinson who has already been done to death long after her death, a store to patronize or whose passing is mourned, a lost parrot or gerbil, reporting on what "will" happen when no one can predict the future ... nothing that would upset or really inform anyone.
Truth to tell, I don't know if my sadness about the paper has to do with the paper -- a medium I once worked in and have a decidedly soft spot for -- or if it has to do with my own demise. I just hate seeing the paper go down the toilet so ignominiously. Everyone's got to die, but how about dying with something resembling honor?
Bit by bit the penny-saver mentality takes hold; the quality of the reporters diminishes; the excuses are all in place...
OK. I still get the Gazette for free based on a monthly column I once wrote -- I wrote the column and the paper gave me a year's subscription ... pretty big of them, right? -- but sometime in the future I will be informed that the paper's largesse has expired and the subscription rate, if I want to continue getting the paper, is 'x.' At which point I will decline to pay with some regret. But the regret will be based on the fact not that I will lose an old friend but rather on the fact that the newspaper was very helpful when firing up the woodstove in winter. Seriously, what will I put under the kindling?
The old folks like me who cherish a hard-copy paper are going to die off. How soon thereafter will The Daily Hampshire Gazette roll over and turn its building into a bowling alley or fronton? Well, the money guys will figure it out.
The above is not very well organized. A bit helter-skelter. But that's the way it is with sadness.