Wednesday, December 16, 2015

1578 Scrap Paper

Newspaper Kills Self; Police Seek I.D., Hunt For Suspects
Name of Victim withheld pending actual death and notification of next of kin.

1578 Scrap Paper

NEWROSES PA (Wessays™) -- While former readers and advertisers are killing print publications nationwide, the local newspaper here has found a way to stave off the slow death.  It’s killing itself, speeding the process and sparing residents and businesses the messy job and the guilt and remorse murderers often later feel.

Just how it’s suiciding is complicated.  It’s using a variation of the Secret Weapon of the Southern Belle: death by sugar coating.

It has become a festival of feel good stories while the rest of the world is collapsing around it.

Terrorism?  Forget it. “We’re not going to print that negative stuff, says editor Robert M. “Bobby” Tall, “not when all those firefighters are rescuing cats stranded in trees, our oldest resident is observing his 118th birthday and elementary school children are collecting funds for victims of botched transgender surgery in Sudan.”

Subscribers are running out the clock on their subscriptions.  Web readers have begun to realize that the internet paywall has been taken down -- temporarily, perhaps -- in a desperate attempt to retain both readers.

Things began to change months ago when the paper still reported crimes, usually with accompanying stories about how NewRoses has one of the lowest crime rates in the northeast.

Soon after, the front office -- which actually is in front of the building with a spiffy view of a parking lot and a rarely used rail track --  issued a policy prohibiting follow up stories.

Someone robs a bank? Two lines on page 16 (that’s as many as they print these days.)  A year later, no one’s been caught.  No follow up.

An auto accident kills a driver?  No names, please, until next of kin are notified.  They rarely get around to it.  This must be because the dead person has no next of kin.  Or the cops forgot to fax a press release. Or the fax machine ran out of paper last month and no one noticed.

It’s not just the readers who have left the building.  It’s the advertisers.  Even with feel good stories about how “we” have the only remaining DeSoto and Oldsmobile dealers left in the entire world. Even with stories about how this or that new sandwich shop is planning to open and sometimes does… although the does part sometimes doesn’t get mentioned.  That would be a follow up. Can’t have that.

There is no limit to the number of stories about blood drives, charity dance marathons, the joys of living here and what wonderful amazing people work for the town’s largest employer, a Very Important College Football Team attached to a school which occasionally holds classes in complex subjects like remedial reading, feminist literature of the 1850s and weather forecasting.

Here’s a sampling of recent front page headlines. Please note, these are real:

-> “County Residents Prep Toys for Tots Donations.”
-> “All Aboard for … Library’s Polar Express.”
-> “...Teachers Honored.”
-> “Community Celebrates Winter…”
-> “(NewRoses) 10 Year Old Competes in “Punt, Pass, Kick.”

To be fair, there is actually one sort of serious headline:

-> “Police Determine Suspicious Package Not A Threat.”

As of this writing, that package story is observing its 14th day on the website.

Well, you say, maybe there’s just nothing bad happening.  We don’t know. We have no way to know.

The last big national scandal here has offered little new in a year or so.  The latest election has come and gone and the biggest loser hasn’t threatened to sue or been arrested.  Yet.

If either happens, the Important People at the paper will have to consult with the publisher on whether to run it.  But that job is vacant.  And it was vacant even when the previous two people with the title actually came in and sat down now and then.

Some people want to start a competing paper, something worth more than the daily non- stop flight from front porch to recycle bin.  A short trip… but long enough to learn about the latest ham pot pie dinner fund raiser for the war hero returning from his deployment in New Jersey to the delight of his wife, infant daughter and her six siblings.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to
© WJR 2015

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