I've been surprised at how many people here in Salem (Oregon) don't read the city's newspaper, since we've always subscribed.
Looking at the front pages of today's Salem Statesman Journal and the Portland Oregonian, I better understand why.
Here's the email that I just sent to the Statesman Journal editorial board:
If you ever wonder why people in Salem don't take your newspaper seriously, line up the front pages of today's Oregonian and Statesman Journal.
The biggest story in the nation yesterday, which dominated the TV, radio, and Internet "airwaves" is relegated to page 11 of the Statesman Journal, with a barely noticeable mention next to a Les Schwab ad at the top of the first page.
By contrast, this is the Oregonian's main headline, "Arizona Shooting Shakes Nation." A commentary on the shooting by Steve Duin also is on page 1.
Do you guys really think that inconsequential pieces about the opening of the Oregon legislature, or the BCS Championship game, are more important for readers to know about than the killing of six people and the near-death of a Congresswoman at a political event in Tucson?
Your news and editorial staff need to look at yourselves in your journalistic mirrors today and ask yourselves, "Am I acting responsibly?"
Update: I just got a response (see below) from Dick Hughes, the Statesman Journal editorial page editor. This points to another reason why people don't take the newspaper seriously. My critique of the paper was ridiculed in a childish fashion.
Hughes is good at criticizing individuals, organizations, and policies in one-sided editorials, but when it comes to engaging in dialogue with one of the subscribers to the Statesman Journal, a.k.a. a "customer" who has a right to point out problems with the journalistic product he is paying good money for, Hughes shrinks from the challenge.
Dick Hughes' first paragraph is wildly wrong. He's obviously way out of touch with the modern American and Salemite, who is underinformed about current events -- not overinformed. This morning I had coffee with a friend who is intelligent, well-educated, and interested in what's going on in the world.
But he knew next to nothing about the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, and the murder of six innocent people in Tucson. He certainly won't learn anything from the front page of the Statesman Journal, which doesn't bother the paper's editorial page editor (who needs to proof read his email messages before he sends them out, but I'll leave the typo as is).
Email from Dick Hughes:
Brian: Thank you for making the case for our being a local newspaper. "The biggest story in the nation yesterday, which dominated the TV, radio, and Internet "airwaves"" -- so they already knew the details of that.
Thank you also for making the case for why people in Salem take the newspaper seriously. You do; otherwise, you would have not responded with this note.
Thank you also for making the case for why people who complain all the time have little credibility, whereas people who aren't predictable complainers have a voice of reason that can influence change.
We know return you to your regularly scheduled whining.
Dick Hughes and his Statesman Journal colleagues should take a look at Newseum, a web site that shows the front pages of newspapers in the United States and around the world.
I checked out eight Oregon dailies. Six of the eight had a front page story about the Congresswoman's shooting. Only the Salem Statesman Journal and the Bend Bulletin (a notoriously right-wing paper) didn't.
So my criticism wasn't "whining," Dick. It was based on a reasonable and factual analysis of the Statesman Journal's failure to properly inform its readers about what is happening in the world.
Here's the front page proof.
[Update 2: Got a response from Dick Hughes after I emailed him an invitation to read my blog post and check out how other local newspapers in Oregon covered the attack on the Congresswoman. Dick said:
Nah, no need. Figured you would.
Well, such is the state of journalism at the oft-pathetic newspaper in our state capital. Readers are more interested in improving the quality of news coverage than the editors are. Like I said, pathetic.]