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CSotD: Pieces of the peninsula

No man is an island!
No man is an island!
(He’s a peninsula.)
                  — Jefferson Airplane 

John Donne was correct: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” but Jefferson Airplane was observant that we can become all-but-removed from the mainland if we’re not careful.

If you’re a fan of cartooning, and certainly if you are a cartoonist, you should feel dread and pain over what is happening at the Buffalo News, because it isn’t just happening to them. The bell is tolling for you.

Yesterday, DDDegg filed an excellent report on Adam Zyglis’s part in the ongoing Guild action, which you should read, but do come back, because I’ve got more to say on the general topic.

 

I’ve worked for three publicly-traded newspaper chains, including Lee Enterprises and also Alden Global Capital, which did this to the Nine-Time-Pulitzer-Prize-winning newsroom of the Denver Post. That’s not turnover: Those are cuts, people gone to save money and boost profits for the hedge fund.

The Post got national headlines for a courageous editorial that included that photograph, and its union picketed and protested Alden’s slashing.

I wish I could report that it made a difference in terms of policies and layoffs, but it didn’t.

That’s no reason not to raise hell against vulture capitalists any more than passage of the Fugitive Slave Act was a reason to halt the abolitionist movement or Minor v Happersett should have shut down the effort for women’s suffrage.

Raising public awareness may seem futile in the short run because it is futile, in the short run.

However, in the long run,  you have to live with yourself and your conscience. To sit back and do nothing makes you a collaborator.

And I’d add that sitting around waiting for the headsman to arrive simply takes away your ability to control the timing.

While I spent a lot of time as a reporter, either freelance or on staff, I also put in a good quarter-century in marketing/circulation, where I was directly connected to top management and got to witness their frustration in dealing with Corporate.

HQ is all about next-quarter earnings and the price of stock, not about newspapers and certainly not about even understanding, much less serving, the local community.

I’ve gotten a laugh from managers and publishers with a joke suggesting that, if Lowe’s were run like a newspaper, they be demanding that their stores in Miami and El Paso match the number of snowblowers sold by their store in Minneapolis, and they’d fire store managers who didn’t make the goal.

But they simply shake their heads in agreement when I observe that God help the paper whose home team wins the Super Bowl, because heads will roll if they can’t match those single-day Monday numbers the next fall when the football team is no longer a contender.

Their real frustration being that, if they won’t slash innocent throats, they’ll be replaced by someone who will.

However, there is this:

In Denver, exiles from the Post went out on their own and raised money to start the Colorado Sun, which is not only up and running and doing good work, but recently bought up some small suburban papers to extend its reach. Take a look at what good journalists can do without yielding to the bloodsuckers.

Think it’s a freak? Here’s the New Hampshire Bulletin, one of several on-line, statewide ventures under the umbrella of a 501c3, States Newsroom.

I note that these ventures don’t appear to include editorial cartooning. I wish they did, and I hope they will.

But what they do offer is an alternative to foolishly expecting vulture capitalists to suddenly order a fat goose delivered to the Cratchit household.

Meanwhile, if you have a decent local paper, subscribe to it. And if you aren’t spending $20 a year each at GoComics and Comics Kingdom, don’t wring your hands over the precarious state of cartooning.

You might even pick up a Patreon or two or three.

 

Elsewhere on the Doom Watch

Candorville (WPWG) is currently tweaking the nose of advertising, which is relevant because ad support has long been the vehicle for publishing of all sorts.

Back when I was in local TV advertising, before the Internet was a factor, it was generally felt that television created the desire and newspapers nailed the actual sale. That is, you might see ads for the new Chevy on TV, but, when you got ready to actually buy one, you’d turn to the newspaper to see what local dealers were offering.

And here’s a pair of sexist assumptions: Tire ads ran in the sports section.

There was a captive audience, and it worked: TV, radio and newspaper advertising each had their advantages and disadvantages, but the main point was that ads were a given.

 

Though I think the guys at Real Life Adventures (AMS) are watching a little too much daytime television, since that’s where the commercials really pile up.

Maybe not. Now that I’m semi-retired, I’ll flip the TV on while I do dishes, and, while there is a lot of ambulance-chasing in daytime ads, plus all sorts of over-priced mattresses, Aldrich and Wise didn’t mention miraculous cookware, patent medicine or anything about reverse mortgages and insurance companies that won’t turn you down even if you’re already dead.

I remember, from my days hawking the stuff, that daytime ads are a lot cheaper than prime time, which suggests that snookering people out of their pre-paid settlements must not be as lucrative as it seems, since you rarely see those ads after 4 o’clock.

If you wonder how people could fall for the MAGA lies about election results or vaccinations, maybe you should stay home and watch some daytime TV, bearing in mind that people don’t place ads unless they expect them to work.

Anyway, the overall relevance to today’s post is that the Colorado Sun and the New Hampshire Bulletin are not advertising-supported, nor is NPR. They rely on grants and user-support.

The solutions are out there.

 

(I was going to add Neil Young’s anti-commercialism video, “This Notes For You,”
but Warner Brothers has blocked reposting. Which emphasizes the frustration.)

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
July/20/2021
@ 7:47 am

Good old Neil Young! The guy has never, to my knowledge, detectably sold out. And he uses, or used, a Synclavier!

May I suggest that Counterpoint get in touch with these emerging newspaper entities and offer them a deal on reprinting selections, provided they always print both of the sides? Maybe they can think of a better offer to make.

#2 Bob Rawson
July/20/2021
@ 4:11 pm

I disagree that NPR isn’t supported by advertising. Sure, they get plenty of support from listener donations, but the companies they call “underwriters” are in fact advertisers.

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