Letter to the editor: Why newspapers are folding

December 8, 2014

newspapper gutterOPINION By ALLAN COOPER

I am one of the few people I know who actually enjoys reading a daily newspaper printed on paper and delivered to my door. However, many years have passed, and I’m not counting, when I have repeatedly complained to my local newspaper that I have not had a paper delivered.

I call early in the morning when I can actually speak to a real person and still nothing happens. Later in the day a “robot” answers when I call and promptly tells me that today’s paper will be delivered to my house tomorrow. Does it surprise anyone that I’m not interested in day-old news?

When the paper is delivered, it lands on the roof or windshield of a parked car, in the street gutter or on the sidewalk where random pedestrians frequently pick it up to save themselves a dollar. I call again and complain about how this paper is delivered and I’m told that the situation will be corrected (it isn’t).

I believe that this paper’s so-called “customer service” is grievously wanting. The people who answer the phone these days have trouble understanding the word “broad” for Broad Street and I have to spell it out. I give them my three number address and they spit back six numbers. Their speech mannerisms are unintelligible and I sometimes wonder if I’m connected to a “call center” in some foreign country.

It has become clear to me why one newspaper after another (with the exception of New Times who do not make paper deliveries and paperless CalCoastNews) is folding in this country and it has less to do with the appeal of e-papers than you might think.

Allan Cooper is a retired Cal Poly professor and a member of Save Our Downtown.

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I also like reading the real thing whether it be a newspaper or a book. I just like the feel of the real thing. I began reading the Los Angeles Times daily when I was 10 years old in 1952 and it was not a liberal rag. For years I carried the Times sports page to work in my briefcase. When I transferred to San Francisco I had a hard time getting accustomed to the SF Chronicle as the linotype union held the paper hostage and the composition of he paper was very poor.

Although the Tribune is a very mediocre paper I take it for two reasons – some of the sports material and some of the local news. The paper is slanted hard left and I ignore any article by the Associated Press or the parent company, as well as the Sacramento Bee and local editorials. For serious content I read two national papers, which the Tribune also delivers.

We live out of town and have a paper tube out at the road which helps the delivery; however, since we lost our long time carrier three years ago we have experienced considerable delivery problems. Clearly, the economics of the Tribune do not allow for proper staffing and compensation for the home delivery part of the business. I also do not like talking to India when there is a delivery problem.

The material reduction of advertising revenue after the 2008 economic downturn resulted in an emasculated content of the paper (Monday and Tuesday are a joke) as well as the integrity of the delivery system.

Mary, as to your comment about Fox News – you need to separate the Special Report with Bret Bear and the Sunday show with Wallace from the other “non news” programs. I find those two shows very good Journalism. I have long ago stopped watching the network and local news shows as they are an insult to one’s intelligence.

Sadly, there is little real journalism in the US anymore. That’s one good thing about Cal Coast News…real content. The Milwaukee Journal is a good one actually. Most of the rest just print whatever BS Reuters and AP send and steer clear of any controversy what-so-ever if it involves a paying advertiser. It’s as if Sloth and Greed were combined.

Actually, now that I review it, the newspapers generally embody all seven:


Lust – pushing the envelope on racy photos and ads

Gluttony – maybe a stretch

Greed – taking money from subscribers AND advertisers. Paying the workers nothing.

Sloth – too lazy to actually create real content that can advance society

Wrath – espousing hate, driving racism, war, and political division

Envy – constantly in competition, even to the point of disparaging each other

Pride – sometimes censoring comments, chasing awards, and ignoring criticisms (like this one)!

The Papers aren’t failing because the paperboy can’t manage to keep your paper out of the gutter…the papers are failing because what is inside them belongs in the gutter.

Look how the Tribune was dragged kicking and screaming to cover the AG Scandal…why…because the established print Media are the same as the Politicians they cover, they are on the inside and cover for their own.

When was the last time you saw a “paperboy”? The guy that delivers my parents paper is in his 30s..

And yet… you’re more worried about convenience and customer service than you are the fact that the same business model which delivers you such lousy service is also delivering you lousy CONTENT. But no mention of that, which is the core of why this business model has succeeded all the way up to the point where they have started cutting costs that effect their customer service. (The content was the first to go)

The times are changing, and journalism as a whole has taken a hard hit.

Students studying journalism in college these days are bombarded with information that essentially says “Your career path, should you be able to find one, will likely be short-lived and riddled with putting the ‘fair and balanced’ model to bed.” Students are taught right out the gate that the days of Walter Cronkite style journalism have passed on.

Personally, I see it as a multifaceted issue requiring a complex approach for even a hopeful remedy. Here are a few of my ideas for how to get the news media back in line, and in doing so to once again create an environment where the service described in the above article is demanded.

1) Fair and balanced journalism must have a reawakening. So much of the public has understandably lost much or all faith in the common reporting we typically encounter. A frequent reaction to this, especially by the younger generations it seems, is to throw both hands up and forget about news altogether as a result of confusion and distrust for media outputs. When this occurs, it doesn’t just hurt the single media “culprit,” however; often people kind of throw in the towel on news as a whole, so this approach requires solidarity amongst content producers who aren’t fair and balanced too, as they contribute to this problem more so than ones that at least attempt to give an accurate portrayal of events and issues.

2) Putting an end to what I call “bipolar politics,” the practice of two opposing forces battling it out by way of constant, drastically contradictory statements which are mutually exclusive. If our country’s leaders want to wreck themselves in such a manner, fine, but media ought to step in as a gatekeeper and keep these fools accountable.

3) We, the people who make up the public, can fortify a singular stance on the matter of which means it is that we prefer to consume our media and create a profitable market for such content. This could lead to the business of reporting to once again have a possibility of profit, and as you all as informed citizens well know, is a fundamental standard to free market capitalism and the goods/services that continue to remain available under it. Maybe if we could stand together on this issue, we could take away the power of political propaganda by putting our money where our mouth is – hopefully standing strong behind at least one media outlet per person that deserves faith in its attempt to honestly and accurately give this journalism thing the old college try once more. This will take the power away from elected officials and others who can pay to have their interests covered strategically, and put it back in the hands of the people where it belongs.

Regarding point 3, I would like to thank Mr. Cooper for following through on his civic duty by expressing his dissatisfaction with the current service he is offered by a local news entity.

And thanks also to those of you who took time to read my long comment. I hope that it inspired thoughts on the matter, regardless of your ultimate opinion.

First of all, I think you need to have a different meme from Fox’s “fair and balanced.” Fox has pretty much wadded up the concept of “fair and balanced” and daily/nightly uses it for toiletpaper. Even bringing the specter of Fox news may, right from the start, confuse many folks who will, subconsciously or consciously, question your position and validity of your opinion.

I also question the wisdom of insisting opinions not be polarized one way or the other. If that is the way people think,then that is what should be reported. To manipulate public opinion to massage the message to something more palatable is something from which we need to move away.

Other than those minor issues, I very much appreciate your post and the other opinions you expressed.

Mary, thank you for drawing attention to the fact that Fox News has unfortunately incorporated “fair and balanced” as a new slogan. I agree with you that their news does not uphold its own standards if fair and balance is the attempt, and I intended to refer to the literal meanings of the terms in my comment. Of course you are 100% right in correlating that to their wording and the association of such, so thanks for allowing me the opportunity to clarify.

As far as polarizing goes, I would agree that consumers should be presented with both sides of an argument. Because we don’t live in a utopia, there are going to be differences of opinions and ways to look at things, which is why we need to educate ourselves from as many viewpoints as we can.

The “bipolar politics” of which I write however takes this idea too far. It demonizes the other side, making personal attacks on anyone who would dare to think differently about a particular matter, and both major parties uphold this model. More importantly, it causes a stalemate between Republican and Democratic members of Congress, for example, because both sides are on the exact opposite poles and demonstrate an unwillingness to make any compromise happen – even with the interests of the public allegedly in mind. Compromise requires some giving up in order to make a gain, and what I see going on these days doesn’t allow for giving up of anything. I believe that as humans we can draw upon the commonalities in thinking to urge a successful compromise, but that is impossible when both sides perceive any giving up as an entire loss.

Re bi-polar — I thought you meant the mindless he said, she said both-sides-must-be-quoted equal-weight-to-whatever charade journalists call “objectivity.” That is why journalism is failing to serve the modern world. There aren’t necessarily two equally weighted “sides” for every story. Objectivity is nonsense, anyway, as no human can in fact be objective, and claiming otherwise just offers a fig leaf for lazy lousy reporting.

As for the Trib, they don’t know how to report.