Thursday, January 20, 2022



Every Thursday morning the Columbia Flier appears in my inbox. I’m a digital subscriber. 

When I was working I accumulated quite a few subscriptions: New York Times, Washington Post, Maryland Daily Record, Baltimore Sun/HoCoTimes/Columbia Flier. Due to budgetary constraints, I’m down to just the last one. I want to support journalism, especially local journalism. My father was fascinated all his life by printing and publishing. He adored seeking out local newspapers whenever we traveled. 

I think I must have caught the bug.

If you read our local paper you probably have been noticing that the actual space allowed for local news is getting smaller and smaller, while content purchased from outside sources seems to grow weekly. Something else I’ve been noticing: where are the letters to the editor?

Almost every issue of the Flier used to contain an editorial piece from the paper, an actual political cartoon about local happenings, and letters to the editor sent by local residents. I can’t remember the last time that was happening regularly. Have people stopped writing in? I know they haven’t stopped having opinions. 

Has the advent of social media as a place where everyone can publicly display their opinions made editorial pages less viable? Or is the cost of vetting letters, researching and writing editorials (not to mention paying cartoonists) now considered to be too costly by the corporations far away that own local news organizations? As I recall, an editorial page can’t run advertisements. Is that part of the issue here?

The last time I submitted a letter to the editor someone reached out to me to let me know that they printed them in the order they received them, “as space permitted”. 

It looks like space is no longer…permitting?

Not everything that goes away deserves to be saved, necessarily. But this one concerns me. It is isn’t merely that I enjoy reading what people are riled up about, and who is riled up, for that matter. It’s also the time and attention that the paper used to invest in learning and thinking about local issues well enough to write about them. 

When that goes, part of the soul of a local newspaper goes. It’s not that the journalists and their editors who cover Columbia/HoCo news don’t care. It’s that financial decisions far above them cut and cut away at what they are able to do. So they do what they can, within the limitations that are given them.

What do you think? Do we lose something if we lose a local editorial page? Or has the internet and modern life rendered it obsolete? Do younger residents see any relevance in reading the letters to the editor anymore?

When does a local newspaper stop being a local newspaper? 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.