I never thought I'd write a blog post with this title.
I've been a subscriber to Salem, Oregon's daily newspaper since 1977. That's 38 years. During most of that time it would have pained me to think that the Statesman Journal should die a journalistic death.
Heck, I even remember the days when Salem had two newspapers, the Statesman and the Capital Journal. In 1980 they merged into a single Gannett paper, the Statesman Journal.
But I'm a traditionalist when it comes to what I pull out of our rural south Salem paper box every morning. I believe that the Statesman Journal should actually be filled with news. If it isn't, what's the point of calling it a newspaper?
Sadly, year by year the Statesman Journal has gotten frothier, less substantial, and shallower.
I realize that it's tough to run a newspaper these days, when people are used to getting free news, free information, free entertainment, and generally free everything on the Internet.
Yet is the journalistic answer dumbing down newspapers so they're almost indistinguishable from all of the junk I can read gratis in cyberspace? I say, no.
Let me count some of the ways the Statesman Journal is leaving this long-time subscriber highly dissatisfied. Understand, I'm not saying that all of the content criticized below is useless. In small doses, it would be fine.
However, I don't want the "news" sections of my local daily newspaper to be filled almost completely with stuff such as...
(1) What happened on this day in history, in Salem a long time ago, or recaps of stories already published in the paper.
(2) The Daily Download and Rapid Response features, which are just Facebook postings and emailed musings of ordinary people's opinions about recent news events.
(3) A full page of SJ Kids writings about such important topics as "What Makes Popcorn Pop?"
Download SJ Kids: What makes popcorn pop?
(4) An editorial page frequently filled with opinion pieces from other newspapers and national columnists, rather than talk of local issues.
(5) Lengthy recountings of what causes, charities, volunteering, events, and other things Salem residents plug during the executive editor's weekly Holding Court lunch at a downtown restaurant.
Download Holding up good deeds this week at Holding Court
(6) Outdoor news. Hiking news. Hunting news. Fishing news. Climbing news. Um, this isn't really "news."
(7) A Marion County "mug shots" feature whose purpose is unfathomable, other than being a low cost way to fill up space on a page.
(8) Restaurant inspection reports. As above, another way to fill up the "news" section of the paper without having to do any actual reporting or writing a story.
Again, this sort of content isn't bad in itself.
Like sugar and white flour, though, a steady diet of it leaves me feeling seriously malnourished journalistically. Shallow human interest content has largely replaced substantial fare in the Statesman Journal.
Investigative reporting is dead and gone. Also gone are most of the skilled (and not coincidentally, probably more highly paid) reporters and writers. Kelly Williams Brown. Peter Wong. Michael Rose. Anna Staver. Hannah Hoffman.
What we're getting instead is -- ugh! -- SJ Insider.
This is the Statesman Journal's newest attempt to squeeze more money out of the steadily emptying journalistic toothpaste tube of our local daily newspaper. A front page jargon-filled description of SJ Insider almost made me barf.
Download SJ Insider offers subscribers something extra
This week, we are adding an advanced and exclusive level of service for our subscribers with the introduction of SJ Insider, a free program offering access to deals, events and content.
...We anticipate that Insider will provide value-added satisfaction to those on the receiving end of our efforts.
There was a time when local news organizations did not prioritize consumer input and response, but that day is long over. To thrive in today's environment, we need to prove to you every day that ours is a symbiotic relationship.
Well, I'm not feeling very symbiotic these days. It seems to me that the Statesman Journal is giving Salemians less and less, while wanting more and more revenue from them.
For quite a while I had hopes that with a new executive editor (Michael Davis) and a new publisher (Terry Horne) some improvements were going to be made at the newspaper. But like I said in a couple of Truth Bombs, I've now concluded that the Statesman Journal is failing Salem and tricking Salem.
So what to do?
The future of the Statesman Journal obviously lies in the hands of its owner, the huge Gannett Corporation. We don't have a community newspaper. Salem has a cog in a gigantic corporate media machine.
I can envision what future I'd prefer, though.
Up to now I've thought that Salem would be better off with a crappy daily newspaper than no newspaper at all. But maybe this isn't true. Perhaps the demise of the Statesman Journal would open up territory for some new way of delivering local news to people in this town.
I don't know what this might be.
I've always thought that replacing a daily print newspaper would be tough. However, I assumed that the newspaper was actually providing news. Given how insubstantial the Statesman Journal has become, currently there is a lot less to replace than there used to be.
Thus if the Statesman Journal dies, I won't dance on its grave, but I also won't be much of a mourner.