Sunday, July 27, 2008

Scratching my itch for news

I’ve scrapped my subscriptions to both morning dailies that cover where I live, in central Maine. That’s a big deal for several reasons: 1) I’m in my 40s, and am part of the demographic that still reads newspapers; 2) I’ve been reading a daily newspaper since I was seven-years-old.

The first of my newspapers to go was the Lewiston Sun Journal, with the introduction of its inane B-Section. Developed to attract readership from those that will probably never read their daily paper—20 and 30-somethings—it prompted me to cancel the local daily that I’d been reading the longest.

While the S-J is the paper most likely to have the news and information about Lisbon and Durham, where I now live, as well as the skinny on Central Maine matters, my cancellation forced me to go back to the Portland Press Herald. Since we’ve lived in Durham, we’ve subscribed to this paper semi-consistently over the past decade, primarily during the time our son attended high school at Greely. Since the S-J doesn’t carry sports results from southern Maine, if we wanted to read about our son’s hockey and baseball results, we were forced to subscribe to Maine’s largest daily. Personally, I also preferred their Maine Sunday Telegram, to the S-J’s lame Sunday paper.

When my wife and I agreed to deep-six our S-J subscription, a year ago, we re-upped with the Press Herald, as morning coffee without a newspaper was a tough habit to break. Going into our subscription, we knew the pitfalls of the paper. No fan of Jeannine Guttman for many reasons, and aware that the paper was struggling to deal with ad revenue (which equaled less content to read) tanking, we tried to adapt, just to have a morning newspaper, fish wrap, or not.

When the paper announced its first wave of cuts, and the Monday edition looked more like a newsletter, than a newspaper, we were finished with the morning edition of the paper. We still receive the Maine Sunday Telegram—Christ, when you’ve grown up with a newspaper, Sunday just ain’t Sunday without a paper to read, albeit one that is getting skinnier each week.

I think we’ll continue to keep the paper, if for nothing else than to read what lame explanations Guttman can continue to come up with to justify her still having a job, piloting this sinking ship of a newspaper, in name only.

This morning, “Gutty” was again regaling us with her typical solipsistic drivel that’s become her MST M.O.. I almost missed her column, as the Insight section, which used to be a stand-alone, now is combined with the Business Sunday section.

Madame Ed. was getting all giddy because Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s (which doesn’t’ seem to be yielding a whole hell of a lot of excellence nationwide) readership survey revealed that things aren’t as bad as Guttman expected them to be. Readers are “hanging in there.” Maybe you should bake them some brownies.

I don’t want to devote any more time to Guttman, so I’ll wrap up my thoughts about newspapers in Maine. Actually, I wrote a blog post on the subject in March, so I’ll just link back to that one.
[Note: If you care to keep up with news from the good ship PPH, check out Pressing the Herald blog.]

In lieu of a local daily, what am I doing to get my news? Here are a few news sites (with two being print-based) that are my go-to substitutes for the daily newspaper.

The Wall Street Journal: The Journal has a great offer for subscribers linking the Online Journal, with the print edition, all for $99/year.

The Journal still practices journalism, with a stable of writers that can still write an article that reads like the news articles I grew up with. The Journal isn’t just for day traders, or business leaders, although, anyone who wants to stay current on the important issues of the day should be a regular reader.

The Bollard: Longtime local journalist, Chris Busby, has shephered The Bollard moving its content from web-only, to quarterly print edition, to monthly periodical. A recent article on the cruise ship industry, and its affect on Portland, by Maine author, Colin Woodard, was an example of the quality content Busby is churning out. Liz Peavey continues to write for The Bollard, with her unique travel-based articles that she’s known for. If you haven’t picked up the print edition, look for it when you make a trip into Portland.

The Lisbon Reporter/The Rumford Reporter: I lump these two online news sites together, because TRR came first, and first clued readers to the trail of trouble that leads from Rumford, to Lisbon.

A small group of local news gadflies took over the former River Valley Reporter, and made it a must read for anyone wanting some actual news from the River Valley, instead of the tired, pro-crony tripe that the Sun-Journal had been serving up for far too long.

If you follow the news trail, you’ll see that former Rumford town manager, Steve Eldridge, landed a cush job in the Town of Lisbon, and not too long ago, former River Valley Growth Council Director, Rosie Bradley, also showed up as director of economic and community development. There were other issues plaguing the government of the town, also. Since the Brunswick Times-Record cleaned house, and dumped former reporter, Michael Reagan, no news coverage of any merit was forthcoming.

Until the launch of The Lisbon Reporter that is. Now, the citizens of the town can access content online that gives them a sense of some of shenanigans that are being perpetuated by those elected to carry out their wishes.

Both sites provide news, and should be regular destinations for anyone that cares about either community, or cares to consider that similar malfeasance might be happening in their own communities. Maybe we’ll start to see many other similar sites popping up all over the state, shining some disinfecting light on small town power-tripping.

The Daily Bulldog: Bobbie and Woody Hanstein have launched their own local media beachhead in Franklin County. Bobbie, a veteran reporter at first, the Lewiston Sun Journal, and then as editor for the Franklin Journal, won several awards for her local and regional reporting. Bobbie, who heads up the editorial side, brings a strong local orientation to the news stories that end up online at their site.

For a few months, TDB was publishing a monthly print version, but costs proved prohibitive, so they are online-only.

Solid news reporting, and you’ll occasionally find an article from yours truly, usually a business-related article for the site.

Newspapers will continue to list, and probably sink at some point, unless they learn to adapt, and recognize that readers want content that is rooted in journalism.

The internet has leveled the playing field and opened opportunities up to the masses to be the media.

1 comment:

Mark LaFlamme said...

You should take a look at upcoming changes in the B portion of the Sunday when you get a chance. I think you'll approve. As for the dailies, the Press Herald couldn't really compete with the SJ when they were at full strength. Now that they've cut back as much as they have, their coverage looks anemic and is likely to stay that way.