Salem's one and only daily newspaper, the Statesman Journal, is falling deeper into a well of mediocrity.
The newest outrage against journalistic excellence was obvious in yesterday's Sunday paper where, for the first time in the 41 years that I've been reading the Statesman Journal, to my recollection, there was precisely zero local content on the opinion pages.
A post on the Salem Community Vision Facebook page nailed the outrageousness of this:
NO LOCAL OPINION IN THE SUNDAY PAPER
Charles Sprague is turning in his grave today. When he was the editor of the Oregon Statesman he wrote a daily editorial that appeared on the front page of the paper for 25 years. Today the Statesman Journal could not even manage to print one opinion piece by a local author. No staff editorial. No guest opinion. Not even a letter to the editor. Pathetic. The Statesman staff should be ashamed. They've hit a new low.
I too was struck by the absurdity of no local opinions in the first Sunday paper published after the midterm elections. Instead, there were five pieces by national writers, plus four editorial cartoons.
Further, there is no longer an editorial board, just two Statesman Journal staff members who, apparently, are staffing a nonexistent editorial board. (Easy job.)
Hopefully local content on the opinion page will spring back to life before too long. I'm a big fan of opinions, in part because I'm so prone to holding them myself. Along with, of course, almost everybody else in Salem. We all have opinions, and an important role of a newspaper is to provide a forum for them.
I'm not particularly concerned about the lack of a Statesman Journal editorial board.
It was a wise decision for the paper to not make any endorsements in the midterm elections, but rather to publish pieces by rival candidates side by side. Or, singly, if one of the candidates chose not to write a piece.
There's really no reason now for newspapers to make political endorsements, assuming there ever was. The Internet allows people to have all the information that editorial boards are privy to, and it is more than a little condescending for newspaper employees to consider that they have a special right, or duty, to tell everybody else how to vote.
But I do enjoy reading letters to the editor and opinion pieces about local issues. For example, City Councilor Tom Andersen has made a reasonable proposal that councilors be paid, which would encourage more people to run for the City Council. But Mayor Chuck Bennett hates the idea.
So I'd like to read dueling opinion pieces by Andersen and Bennett on this subject. Along with letters to the editor taking one side or the other.
I'm finding that the new journalistic kid in town, the totally online Salem Reporter, is making it a bit difficult for me to feel close to this Salem news source. I have to remember to visit the web site each day, whereas the Statesman Journal appears at the end of our driveway every morning.
(Well, most mornings.)
Some days there aren't any new Salem Reporter stories. On the plus side, all of the stories are local, or about state government, whereas the Statesman Journal has a lot of USA Today and national content that isn't of much interest to me. I subscribe to the online versions of the Washington Post and New York Times, plus I browse Politico, Google News, and such.
And so far the Salem Reporter doesn't have an opinion section, nor any way for subscribers to comment on stories. Both of these absences are turn-offs for me, though I feel like I'm getting my money's worth from the $100 annual subscription that I signed up for soon after Salem Reporter announced its presence in our town.
UPDATE: Almost forgot to mention that the current Statesman Journal Monday-Sunday home delivery rate is $62/month, which is up from $46/month in June 2017. So that's a 35% increase in a bit less than a year and a half, which is, um, a LOT greater than the overall inflation rate.
My suspicion is that the Statesman Journal's corporate masters at Gannett are trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of subscribers before the paper ceases print publication next year -- and perhaps shuts down altogether. Meanwhile, us subscribers are paying more for crappier content.