(Murray, KY - June 15, 2012) - The once proud voice of investigative and courageous journalism for much of Kentucky’s 20th century, gasped its last air at a Five Star gas station in this far western Kentucky town. It was a typical early summer night as the continuous passersby ignored the day’s breaking news and analysis available for a dollar.
The shadows of late day merging with the onslaught of night framed a perfect backdrop to the vanishing importance of the legendary newspaper. The once great newspaper, with its regional news bureaus reporting trends and issues of the region, held no more excitement for the locals.
Resting inside a small steel box, looking very frail and withdrawn, the newspaper had been reduced in size, stripped of its regional and local field offices, loaded down with bright sales inserts. This newspaper that once held the greats of the comic world in bold sizes and colors now retreated behind full pages of wrapped car ads.
What had stopped me in my tracks were the words: “Sunday Papers $3.00.”
Wow, a dollar increase!
At the precise hour this once great paper lay dying, some ½ mile down the road was the Democrats’ Annual Jefferson Jackson Day dinner. In the younger days when the C-J cared about the doings, comings and goings of politicians, this would have been a major night for the Democrats and the paper circulation throughout West Kentucky. The fact that there was no C-J reporter (or any major print newspaper) confirmed the event never took place from a major print media perspective.
Sadly, it’s hard to put blame on this aspect of trying to figure out why and how we have allowed for the death of such a media giant. No longer are our great newspapers owned by men and women of passion and lust for protecting the public from those who would rob us of our heritage, our culture, our freedoms and our very environment.
Media ownership is now defined in terms of “meeting double digit profit goals each quarter.” Over the past ten years, news has become a part of the entertainment section of giant corporate machines.
Out of the fog and shadows of the two George Bush administrations, we, as a country, pulled back on our support of any news organization that dared to question the wisdom or right of our government to go into an undeclared war. Nor would we allow any criticism toward not supporting the 1,000,000 new national security jobs ordained to seek out all enemies, both foreign and domestically.
Add to the mix of ever increasingly high costs for newspapers production was the specter of losing advertisers who sided with the Republican view of how the world threatens our national being. Ad sales fell throughout the media empire, especially after the New York 9-11 event.
No, what really killed off the C-J and other great papers were distributive technologies. With the speed of instant awareness of events and talking points, through cell and smart phones, I-pads and internet, news became a 24 hour commodity that never shut down or rested.
The old model of going to press at 10:00 pm or 2:00 am was broken. A new template of “what’s hot 3 minutes on the net or Facebook” now filled our craving for news.
A new trend is developing out on the edges of the media empires run by the giant boxes of Gannett or Murdock. This is the time of working mothers who use coupons as weapons in their fight to survive at the grocery store each week.
Deep within the offices of the Hickman County Times (Clinton, KY) sits a small oak table with this week’s Louisville Courier Journals placed very carefully on its top. Some 22 Sunday newspapers are gently resting this week. The most striking thing about this scene is that only one paper has the front page attached to it. All the other newspapers are only the feature life section, filled with all that week’s coupons plus the comics section. Business, art, culture, regional news or opinions need not be a part of these particular papers, they no longer serve as platforms for the delivery of news.
In a weird twist of rural life, urban news has been reduced to the status of dead fish. Hard core news is only valued to wrap dead carp in, not to read.