P.S. Maybe Ms. Burstiner would consider making a phone/online survey of past and current local newspaper subscribers a class project that would inform the discussion about the role a subscription base can play in the financial status of local papers?
The cut, cut, cut business model is a failed model. Papers like the TS can accept the inevitable or consider investing in an alternative that puts a premium on quality journalism- if an analysis of what readers would be willing to pay for indicates it'd be worth trying. The newspaper industry is not monolithic. Some newspaper and news magazine ownerships are investing in creative, innovative strategies that take into account online reading trends.
Is stabilizing and rebuilding TS readership (and subscriber base) even possible? What do readers and (subscribers) want? Somebody needs to actually talk to them, and interpret the results for us newspaper junkies. This seems like a relevant and important subject for a HSU Journalism Dept. class project and would be of benefit to the community.
It's true that the "Roasts and Toasts" and guest editorials were part of the Somerville editorial column. I didn't say they weren't. But they were balanced by editorials that addressed issues of local import and didn't shy away from taking positions on local political controversies. The point I was trying to make was overall, the editorial column was worth reading up to the most recent managing editor transition.
And as I allude to in my earlier comments, the reporting was much better then too. Wider coverage and more in depth articles. Staff reductions have taken a huge toll on the news reporting in the past several years. I share your belief that there is a correlation between the quality and quantity of local news content TS and who is reading the paper, and therefore writing letters to the editor.
The decline in both the op/ed and front section news content have driven former readers to seek their news and commentary elsewhere.
If I weren't so old school and I probably wouldn't be reading the TS either; the habit of opening a local paper in the morning runs to deep. In the past, I'd open the TS with anticipation. Nowadays I open it with dread - expecting to see the manifestation of continued cuts in its operating budget.
I would love to see the results of a survey of former subscribers that asked the question 'what were the three top factors that caused you to drop your subscription?" My guess is that virtually every respondent would cite the drop in quality of content. What would the paper have to do to earn back their subscription?
Unfortunately, this dialog doesn't occur. Would the TS management invite past and former readers to a workshop or post an online survey that seeks to identify ways to turn the tide? Not likely as long as selling advertisements drives management decisions and management doesn't believe people read their paper for the news content. The TS is slowly but surely devolving into a second rate daily advertiser.
Until subscribers are regarded and respected as valuable customers nothing is going to change for the better.
The Times-Standard lost its editorial voice and substantial local political influence when Rick Somerville - the laudable former managing editor and paper's conscience - died. Regular insightful and analytical editorials have been replaced by mediocre pap. When we do get editorial commentary, it's usually in the form of meaningless "Roasts and Toasts" and guest editorials from other papers where the managing editor still prides him or herself in engaging the public in thoughtful dialogue about contemporary community issues of consequence.
In the last year the paper maimed the discourse occurring online in response to op/ed content when it switched from Topix to Facebook managed reader comment in the last year. Setting aside the reduction in purely emotional spiteful comments, anyone comparing the number of comments made and the depth of the exchanges before and after the change would see a huge drop-off in the number of comments and a vast simplification in the exchange of comments.
What changes of this sort tell serious readers is they need go elsewhere for anything other than non-investigative reportage, which itself is a shadow of its former self. Blame for reducing the T-S to an irrelevant rag should be placed on the shoulders of the paper's conglomerate owner and a go-with-the-flow publisher. Their business model is an insult to the standards of good, old-school journalism that continues to drive away loyal subscribers as quality continues to be cut back. This reader would prefe to see the TS to go down swinging with a product the staff can be proud of than cannibalizing the paper and tracking its past reputation for decent reporting and editorial commentary through the mud.
Unfortunately, no one in charge seems to believe that people will pay for a quality product. The opinion of subscribers is neither sought nor listened to, yet we determine the paper's fate. I've never seen a bigger disconnect between a business's management and its customers.
What will still sell papers, and attract people to the online version, is first rate reporting that looks for and examines the story behind events, and a relevant editorial voice that has a regular presence and doesn't shy from controversy.
Clearly, selling classifieds coupled with no regard for new content is not the solution.
The result of this obsession with turning a short term profit? We readers get to watch the paper drop to earth in a death spiral, with a pilot at the stick who thinks making the paper ever less interesting and relevant and in the process driving away a loyal subscriber base is the answer. The TS deserves a better fate than this.
Why is the Journal so widely read and its advertisement sales comparatively more successful? Because the publisher understands the connection between engaging writing and creating an advertising market. A simple concept that the TS publisher and owner can't seem to grasp.
As father and grandfather, I found this story to be extremely hard to read. Obviously Courtney is struggling with impulses and judgments that continue to cause personal pain and sound very self destructive. One can only hope that she will find herself a good professional counselor or psychologist who can help her overcome her personal devils and learn to recognize and avoid harmful, and potentially dangerous, relationships.
No one should have the childhood she's had, especially the parenting, or lack thereof.
But she's intelligent and strong. Those qualities are a solid foundation to build on. I hope she figures out she deserves the company and companionship of folks who the antithesis of the twisted losers she is naturally attracted to. The roadsigns are there; reading them correctly is the challenge, really, for all of us.
If we had a true ward system of municipal govt., Glass would have won, and probably Kuhnel too. At some point, a better funded opposition will prevail, all other things being equal. Converting to a true ward system would level the playing field to a great degree.
Beyond that, a better organized and active campaign with the more appealing message can be expected to prevail. In my opinion, the opposition was more effective and energized.
And if the vote is split, and in Ron's case it was, the going really gets tough. Ron and Xandra are oranges, people, neither is an apple. Add their two totals and you get a plurality and a majority. Once again, pride trumps pragmatism. Just a year ago we watched John Ash and Susan Penn split the Harbor District liberal vote. Until the liberals rise above their hubris and make the right fundamental moves and avoid making basic mistakes , they'll keep losing. Count on it.
And if you can't bring the necessary time and energy to run a pedal to the metal city-wide campaign, please, do us liberals a favor, stuff your ego and step aside for some younger, more fired up activist who's been brought along by mentors, ala Newman and Brady. If we are going to win, those who are in leadership positions are going to have to do a more conscientious job of realistically appraising what they're will to bring to a campaign and be more willing to pass the torch when they don't have what it will take to compete. Winning should be more important than individual ambition. The Marina Center crowd sure figured this out.
For those interested, you can can go to the city 's website's parks page (http://www.ci.eureka.ca.gov/ > departments > parks) and click on the Park Locator link to see a PDF map of Eureka's parks and open spaces.
Gunsalus's approach to the so-called unbalanced airing of non-mainstream progressive viewpoints is what this discussion should be focusing on; yes, he reveals his outsider lack of familiarity with the community he is so out of touch with.
However, the more important issue is this: If Gunsalus is concerned about KHSU's programming "balance" how appropriate is it to offer up censorship as a solution instead of simply adding a couple of programs that advocate the rightwing take on politics and the environment. KHSU takes pride in a tradition diverse programming, and so do the vast majority of it's listeners. This would be the democratic thing to do. No one twists my arm and says "Listen to this show or you'll be sorry". Moving the dial to another station or putting on a CD is democracy in action. I for one would be pleased by the addition; this would simply underscore the values I believe in, including freedom of speech.
How many KHSU listeners will tune in to listen to a conservative political commentator or a anti-environmental show host? What kind of donor support would they receive from listeners? And how many comments will the administration be recieving on an ongoing basis objecting to their content? Let the administration deal with a a predictable reality of abysmal listener support of the conservative shows, a dearth of listener donations and underwriting for the shows, and a constant stream of criticism about the shows' content. Poetic justice I'd say.
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In Print This Week:
Dec 5, 2013
vol XXIV issue 49
The North Coast Journal Weekly
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