I've been a subscriber to Salem's Statesman Journal newspaper for 45 years. The paper has always had an opinion section.
It's been my favorite part of the Statesman Journal. I enjoy reading letters to the editor. I like to peruse guest opinions by local people. Syndicated columns interest me. So do editorials written by newspaper staff, even when I disagreed with them -- which was frequent over the years.
But yesterday Cherrill Crosby, the executive editor, wrote a piece saying that the Statesman Journal is doing away with the opinion section. The reasons were lousy.
Crosby claimed "this content does not resonate as it once did with audiences." Well, neither do newspapers as a whole. I wasn't aware that the job of newspapers is to only publish what the greatest number of people want to read. Silly me. I thought news was what newspapers were all about.
A big part of news isn't purely factual. It is interpretative, putting things into a broader context, viewing news through a lens that goes beyond who/what/when/where/why.
That's what opinion pages have always done. Yet Crosby and her bosses at Gannett don't care about that. They aren't interested in providing the best journalism. They care only about generating enough eyeballs on Statesman Journal content to support their advertising rates.
Crosby said, "Opinion content is often cited as the reason for canceling a subscription." OK. And now I think you're going to find that a lack of opinion content also is a reason for canceling a subscription.
What's bizarre about this screwy decision is that the opinion pages can cost very little. Dump some of the syndicated columnists if you want to save money. Ask people in Salem to submit more letters to the editor and more opinion pieces.
After a bit of editing, you've got an opinion section written by citizens who aren't paid a dime by the Statesman Journal. And it adds local content to a newspaper that currently has very little of it, being mostly a rehash of USA Today.
But Crosby didn't go that route.
Instead, she chose to dump the longstanding tradition of an opinion section entirely, rather than updating it to be more appealing to readers of the paper. Judging by comments on Crosby's announcement, many subscribers aren't happy with her decision. Here's a few of the comments.
This is a blatant attempt to silence readers and guest opinions. Misinformation as the reason to stop the opinion page is a very lame excuse considering almost all of Statesman Journal's articles aren't even fact-checked by a copy editor or editor. Copy editors were part of Gannett's massive layoffs in the past decade. Let the reader decipher whether it is opinion or fact. Also if it is so unpopular then why does Time magazine have 12-16 pages of articles in a section titled "The View?" Here lies the Statesman Journal ... may it rest in my kitty litter box.
So another way to silence the voices of the SJ readers and our communities. So sad.