by Sandra Stringer
An actual thing that was said to me once: “Why should I subscribe to the newspaper? News should be free!” If you know me, I bet you can figure out, at least generally, how I reacted. If you don’t, let me tell you: I was not pleased. More specifically, in this instance, I growled, “That is &%$#ing nonsense!” I have a potty mouth. My mother doesn’t know. Don’t tell her, okay?
I have learned since that the best way to get an idea across is to present a reasoned, measured, intelligently thought out response when presented with an uninformed opinion…HA HA HA! I’m kidding. That actually only works about 10% of the time.
The reality is that different people have their minds changed in different ways. As near as I can tell there are really three really solid ways to present an issue that you want people to pay attention to, and it completely depends on the way you view the world. Which one of these works for you?
The reasoned approach (the least popular method)
Wikipedia tells us that the ancestors of the Post & Courier are the Charleston Courier (founded 1803) and the Charleston Daily News (founded 1873). These two papers combined to become the News and Courier in 1873. Another merge happened in 1991 when Charleston’s main evening newspaper, The Evening Post, joined with the News and Courier due to declining readership. Further decreases in readers then led to severe layoffs of personnel in 2009.
Newspapers around the country are failing in what the Atlantic Monthly recently called “The Print Apocolypse”. With fewer readers, newspapers lose advertising revenue because advertiser rates are based on readership numbers. The rise of digital platforms is hastening the demise of hard copy printed papers, but digital readership has not caught up. Because readers can get their news from an unending supply of national and international online platforms, paying for news has become counterintuitive to many.
Online sites register number of views to generate advertising dollars, but big papers like the New York Times or the Washington Post have a small edge over small, more locally focused papers like the Charleston Post & Courier. But the loss of a source of truly local news often signals a death knell for civic engagement. It’s hard to protest, for example, the cutting of grand live oaks to service electric lines if you don’t even know the problem exists.
Such a story is not going to be covered by national newspapers. Local television news may cover some of these stories, but even television news is learning to keep a strong internet presence in order to capture viewers. And, let’s face it, not many of us sit down and watch the news every night.
We might catch a local news stations local news stories if we follow each station in our area and if the weird algorithms of Facebook decide it’s something we need to see.
The bottom line is this: the Charleston Post & Courier may one day be among the newspapers listed on Newspaper Death Watch. Each and every subscription makes a difference to keeping a newspaper going.
The screaming approach (we hate it but we’re kind of entertained)
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH EVERYONE! WE HAVE ONE OF THE BEST LOCAL NEWSPAPERS IN THE COUNTRY AND EVERYONE TAKES IT FOR GRANTED. OUR SOCIETY IS MADE UP OF A BUNCH OF UNCIVILIZED, UNEDUCATED, UNGRATEFUL CRETINS AND I WEEP FOR THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY!
The personal approach
This past Sunday morning I got the paper off the front porch, got a cup of coffee, and read the in depth piece in the P&C about the Savannah River Nuclear Plant. I occasionally glanced over to see what kind of bird was on the feeder, but I mostly stayed engrossed. What a beautifully written piece of journalism.
My weekdays aren’t usually that relaxed. I typically read the P&C online with their digital edition before work, on the bus and then in the cafeteria at work while munching on an egg biscuit. But the hard copy that lands on my doorstep doesn’t go to waste.
On weekday mornings, as I’m leaving, I pick up the paper and put it in the chair next to the door. Later, after my mother has set herself up with coffee, she does what I only have time to do on Sundays: she sits, reads the paper, and sometimes glances at the bird feeder to see who’s visiting it today. She really enjoys this part of her daily ritual and takes her time about it.
Recently she had to go out of town to spend time with a sick friend. She tried to read the local paper, but was astonished by how little there was in the way of good writing or, for that matter, news of local import. Since she was still in South Carolina, she found with a little effort she could still get the Post & Courier every day.
Taking it all for granted
Sometimes we take for granted the good things we have, like living in one of the most amazing cities in the world and never walking on the beach, never looking with appreciation at the incredible buildings and landscapes, never eating seafood fresh off the boat, never going on an Art Gallery walk, never buying John’s Island veggies at a farmer’s market, never going to an oyster roast or a play or a concert.
It’s just as easy to take the Post & Courier for granted. For Mom, seeing what another local newspaper had to offer helped her appreciate the P&C more. For me, I already know why we should all at least have a digital subscription: a great local newspaper is not all that common. It costs money to pay reporters, to keep the lights on, to have good equipment. It’s not cheap.
If any of you have ever wondered why the James Island Bugle is not a hard copy newspaper, it’s not because we don’t want to. It would be wonderful. But you’d need a building, computers, desks, a properly paid staff, electricity, phones, internet…office supplies! You’d have to pay a professional printer. You’d have to pay someone to deliver the newspapers, even if it was just to businesses. And your staff wouldn’t just be writers and photographers. You’d also have to have someone to handle advertising…seriously, the list goes on and on.
The real deal
I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face: the Bugle is my hobby, not my full time job.
What the Post & Courier does is the real deal, and they do it really well. You may not know it because you have never had another local newspaper in your hands to compare it to. I recommend that whenever you’re in another town, take the time to read the local newspaper. The difference will be astonishingly clear when you do.
Keep in mind, this isn’t New York City or Chicago or Philadelphia. We are not placed on a major airline hub. We’re a mid-sized city that shouldn’t expect to have a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper land on our front lawn. But there it is.
It would be a real blow if we ever lost the P&C, and it really is important that they have paid readers. If you don’t want a hard copy newspaper, you can subscribe just to their digital edition, although getting both the hard copy and the digital edition currently only costs $3 more a month. If you want to see how much we value them at the James Island Bugle, just go look at any month of our In the News postings.
No, nobody asked me to write this article. No one paid me to sing the praises of our local paper. I just believe in supporting all the cool things we have here, and the Post & Courier is one of those things. I apologize to those who took offense at being called “ungrateful cretins”.
As Editor of a really small news blog, I tend to get rather passionate about journalism and a free press. I know keeping up with the world around us isn’t everyone’s jam…but you’re reading this, so maybe it’s something you care about.
I hope that, if you can afford it, you’ll spend the $25 per month it currently costs to be a subscriber of this fine local newspaper. Our support is a gift to ourselves.