The Disappearance of Local Content - A Piece Of My Mind
I am a bit difficult to be around sometimes. I can be stubborn on a lot of things, and I'm set, but I can also adapt in a conflict situation and don't hold on to an ego. I end up seeing the larger good and adapt to it, provided it benefits me. I may come across as a cold person, but I am extremely sentimental. ---Emraan Hashmi
Many years ago, it seems like a lifetime ago, I started to work through High School first as a sports stringer for the weekly PG County Journal. The editor discovered quickly that I was not suited for that job. Instead of getting rid of me, he smartly switched me to writing features. Something he thought (and he was correct) suited me to a tee. This was long before I started my reviewing or media career.
I would spend afternoons and weekends during my senior year of high school learning the newspaper business, both in my school newspaper and at the Journal.
Before I had written my first AUDIOWORLD column, I was writing small short feature articles while I was in high school. One thing that the Journal had you do is the write up for your article. The editor had to approve the copy, he would make sure you checked your facts. Then you had to copy and paste up the article after you wrote it. This was to see if the article would fit into the issue. If it didn't fit, sometimes you did not get printed that week.
I learned about column inches, composition, types of fonts, paper design (always remember the ADS are more important than the text copy...the ADS paid the bills!) and the idea is to get all your important facts in the beginning of an article.
Most small town editors had a mean RED pencil that would usually cut the back of your article for space. One editor once told me to stop using seventy-five cent words, when a twenty-five cent word would do! These were lessons you could not learn from the AP style book.
When working together with others, I made deep friendships. Many have lasted me a lifetime. In looking back, lessons in journalistic ethics were taught while I was on the job. The editors taught all of us, while we tolled putting together a weekly newspaper on time. You understood the term deadlines was not a guideline, it had to be there and checked before it ever saw print.
This was an education you could never pay for in a college journalism class. When I started working for these papers, during my high school years, they were a training grounds. We don't have this anymore to educate people...and it is needed. The way the net and TV news spews out news stories without researching their content and facts is appalling. Something it is needed very badly to change things around.
This was long before computers, desk-top publishing and the Internet. You learned to type and hone your copy. There was no spell check, you used a dictionary and a thesaurus. The idea of a blog was a letter to the editor... and they read them and picked the best letters with real opinions. This was the late 70's and 80's, there was an influx of small town, family style, weekly newspapers. It was an era of what was called the “Mom & Pop” newspapers era. These small areas cover the township or the county so well. These independent newspapers told the news, but also gave a chance to new writers to do things they never tried. These papers also tried things like recipes, Boy Scout news and even library events. It was a newspaper for the community. It also focused on the community news, activities and its people. This is something that the Washington Post would never do.
These papers were also open to try new and different syndicated columns, to see if the readership would like different things. Some of my early AUDIOWORLD columns started in some of these small papers. Some of these papers embraced a column like mine with letters that were sent to me.
Now to the crux of the matter....
As I write this column, it is the middle of June. I had just read the final edition of The Gazette Newspaper. This weekly newspaper came out every Tuesday like clockwork. Filled with local news and issues, it kept people informed on their community. This weekly newspaper had a 31 year life span. It covered a few counties in the Maryland/DC area. Now, so you know, 31 years is a great run. Most small town, area newspapers would last up to 5 years...so it is a big deal. In a way, this column is a funeral nell to my journalism past. Another mom and pop is biting the dust!
While I was in the lobby of my apartment building, one of the older tenants and I were discussing the last issue of the Gazette. She told me, “I don't know where I am going to get good local news anymore. The Post does not really cover local news very well in their Metro section.”
“I don't know!” I told her. “However this small paper will be missed by me.”
Reach for The Stars
Columnist: Bennet Pomerantz has covered the Audio medium for the last 20 years. He has syndicated newspaper columns, AUDIOWORLD and "Movies of Your Mind", in Affaire De Coeur Magazine. In which he showcase his vast and diverse knowledge of the spoken word medium.
He is also known as a media review critic (books, music, graphic novels, DVDs, CDs) in his weekly syndicated newspaper column "A Piece of the Page". He also is a ranked media reviewer for Amazon.com. http://www.facebook.com/bennet.pomerantz1 / E-mail: email@example.com