Saturday, January 13, 2007

"All that I know is just what I read in the paper"

"All that I know is just what I read in the paper" (Will Rogers 1879-1935, American humorist and social commentator)

I was born and raised in a city with three daily newspapers (one morning - two evening) and my family had delivered (and read) two a day. Because the competition for circulation was so intense the papers vigorously competed to find, examine, and report as much information of local interest as possible. When you lived in a big (notorious) place like New Orleans there was always something dubious (usually local government related) going on and the papers were constantly digging and reporting on the real story (behind the story).

Not long ago most folks relied on the paper to keep them not only informed about but actively engaged in local events. It kept the city government and all public institutions and organizations on their toes and looking over their shoulders. That's the kind of papers Will was talking about. That was a healthy state of affairs.

Television just doesn't have the time to look deep into most everything going on and in a place like Natchez that has no local news station we get no such help at all from the tube.

In Natchez government and public institutions have been mostly immune from close scrutiny. Almost weekly strange, unusual, and questionable things are going on. We may wonder about it but we just don't have the information and details we'd need to pass judgement and perhaps take action to object.

"I never met a Natchez Democrat staffer I didn't like" (Me 1939-, Natchez curmudgeon and thunker)

The Democrat has good, talented, and hard working folks. It's not the people who are failing to dig, detail, and report, it's the paper's policy objectives that are at fault. (as is usually the case in organizational problems - it's the structure NOT the people) Fluff, human interest, school - club - social events, giant front page photos, appear to be what they think will hold our interest and sell advertising (and sell it they do - the weight of the week's advertising inserts rivals the weight of the newspaper).

Recently I have seen the beginnings of a shift toward a healthy curiosity in the editorials. They should encouraged to continue and increase their level of healthy curiosity.

"If all we know is just what we read in the paper, we don't know much"


Casey Ann said...

I have also noticed the improvement in the editorials.

Another good sign is that the Democrat has assigned a reporter, Katie Stallcup, just to cover government. I think she has done a really good job. In fact, she's so good, she'll probably leave soon for a better job - which is what seems to happen to all good reporters.

One person who won't be leaving, because his wife is from here and works here, is Ben Hillyer. He not only takes awesome photos, but writes a very good column.

Anonymous said...

There is another problem with the Natchez Democrat that has not been mentioned: Carpenter is a right-wing hack.

Anonymous said...

Rightwing?? Not judging by the choice of editorial cartoons!!

Anonymous said...

The Democrat is just not a serious "news" paper. Doesn't matter if the owner is left or right wing.

Anonymous said...

I met Carpenter's wife. I don't think your statement is accurate. I wonder about that Cooper guy, though. Katie and Ben rule!