May 24, 2019

Reading A Newspaper Or Watching The Local News: Damn Depressing

Many Americans have discontinued their local paper and have stopped watching the news on a regular basis.  As we know, the newspapers are a “day late and a dollar short” when it comes to reporting the news.  With the Internet and a dozen news channels that run 24/7, most news that is printed is old news by at least 24 hours.  Newspapers throughout the United States are struggling with circulation that is down as much as 10% or more in the past year.  National newspaper advertising revenue was down 10.5% in 2011, classified down 11% and retail down 8%.

I don’t know if it is the selection of news that is hurting the local stations or not.  They seem to concentrate on crime and corruption and they tend to rehash old topics over and over again.  Some of the articles in a recent Detroit Free Press were concentrated around: “Suicide among baby boomers on the rise” and “Syphilis rising in Detroit.”  This week in Michigan history was an article on the hanging on July 8, 1938 of Anthony Chebatoris.  Now in all fairness to the newspapers, they do have to scramble for local news to define a niche that cannot be reported on CNN or MSNBC.

I recently dropped my local newspaper as it was delivered only three days a week.  The newspaper selected the dates that home delivery would continue.  It was not based upon what I wanted but upon what the newspaper saw as days where revenue would be the highest due to advertising.  I suddenly realized with the last invoice that I was also paying for the delivery of my paper as well – $108.00 for 26 weeks!  Face value of the papers purchased off the rack was only $104.00.

As newspapers get smaller they raise their prices at the same time.  The Sunday paper can be reduced to a few pages if one discards the want ads, the car ads, employment ads, and special interest advertising that will usually consume a full page of the paper.  I am not sure how the George Iwanow Hearing Aid Centers can run full page advertisements in the Detroit News and Free Press day after day, month after month.  It has to be a very profitable business.

Most local news stations have had a rash of retirements as contracts are not renewed and new staff “joins” the station – usually at a much lower salary.  I have often wanted to write or call them and ask just who selects the “news” each day.  It is sad as Detroit is plagued with so much crime.  I have also asked myself if we do the local community any service by reporting this crime as important news.  I guess that missing persons found dead in abandoned homes is news for someone.

In today’s tough economy it is hard to keep a positive outlook on life.  Church attendance is down; crime is on the rise; poverty is creeping into more people’s lives; most state and local governments are nearly bankrupt and our national debt keeps skyrocketing out of control.  Even the beloved ObamaCare has been delayed as the government rethinks it position on some key elements of the healthcare law. On an international level, we can watch the upheaval in Egypt or the civil war in Syria.  Or maybe we should all sign up for Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr’s bus tour of the most depressed areas in the City of Detroit.  Beats watching the buses on the local news.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer