Sunday, July 19, 2009

Support Your Local Newspaper

Newspapers vital for American democracy

Few westerns are as funny as the James Garner classic: "Support Your Local Sheriff." That title, with minor changes, fits my latest crusade best: "Support Your Local Newspaper."

This month the Waco Tribune-Herald has followed in the footsteps of the San Angelo Standard-Times and numbers of newspapers around the country. The Waco paper is now printed by the Austin American-Statesman.

As the American Revolution came to an end in 1783 there were forty-three newspapers in the cities, towns and villages of the new nation. Some doom-sayers think there may be less than that number of newspapers by 2010.

Not all papers are giving up without a fight. Adjustments are being made. Retire some staff. Cut the paper down to fewer columns which cuts the cost of paper, which is going up all the time. Shutting down printing presses and lose a lot of faithful craftsmen who have given their lives to the presses. It was the same when the invention of the off-set method put the linotype machines into museums.

To cut down on expenses a paper in the mid-west has dropped it's Monday paper. True, the growing financial pressure is not just with newspapers. Other jobs, factories or positions can come back after a decline. Newspaper can't do that nearly as well. And that is why it is so important to keep the local papers in business. It is difficult to start them up again.

Without newspapers who will be checking on corrupt officials, or injustice in the workplace, or praise the good deeds and reveal the "bad seeds" of the area? Example: Newspapers revealing the immorality of the secret "Christian" family of 133 C Street in Washington, D.C., where numbers of politicians live and apparently approve each others' peccadilloes.

Another Example: If people would read the newspaper they would not have to keep saying President Obama is a Muslim or doubting that his birth certificate shows him to be a United States citizen. Too many citizens flounder around in darkness by not reading the newspapers. TV sounds bites fall short of informative journalism.

How about all our high school football players and the game write-ups and pictures they treasure (when they win). TV does not give us daily baseball box scores, or financial and market results we can ponder. Another reason people buy newspapers are the comic pages. They may not be as good or funny as in the old days, but Peanut Classics, Zits, Blondie and others are appreciated each morning by the newspaper faithful.

When I moved to San Angelo seven years ago the Dallas Morning News was delivered daily to my home, in addition to the Standard-Times. I even bought the Houston Chronicle from time to time at Hastings. Then the News pulled out to major on the metroplex. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram only gets as far west as Brownwood. I wonder how long before the Sunday San Antonio Express-News will no longer show up at Town and Country?

I like newspapers. The first thing I do every morning is go outside and take a long deep breath of warm air, stretch down for my newspaper. (That counts toward my daily exercise.) After page one there are the obits. Was it George Burns who said it first: I read the obits and if I'm not there I get up? (Few quips are as old as that one.)

You learn a lot from obituaries. Many of these "ordinary" people, who have passed beyond the vale, did amazing things. Interesting to note their birthplace, marriages, and what they worked on or what they enjoyed doing.

I must be a little like the guy who said a lot of ink had rubbed off his psyche. Dad took three newspapers for his barber shop. Those were the days when the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had a morning and an evening edition and he took both plus the local Brownwood Bulletin and the local weekly. Dad and Editor James White had a running battle of wits. White didn't like the haircuts and Dad kept pointing out the short-comings of the paper. Magazines at the barber shop are as old as the ones at your doctor's office. They can't replace the daily paper.

Whenever I travel, I buy local papers. Even when traveling overseas, I like to get glimpse of the local color through the weekly or daily papers, even if I don't read the language. It gives a bit of insight, however superficial, of the local scene.

Buy a subscription for a friend. Think how dull the morning will be with just coffee and no paper. "Support Your Local Newspaper."

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