Don Winslow: Newspapers Are Still A Very Good Read
People don't read newspapers anymore.
Oh, sure, many still buy a daily paper, but many more get the news, if they get it at all, from the television or the Internet. That's sad!
To rely on the Internet to provide you with the happenings of the world is like relying on the church bulletin to tell you about the latest encyclical by the Pope. Expecting a Lou Dobbs to give you an unbiased recital of the day's events is like expecting Mel Gibson to sit down for a kosher meal in Brooklyn. They just don't do it!!!
And what is even more of a shame, a too-high percentage of young Americans get their news from the Daily Show, the late-night irreverent rant on the news.
Though this treatise could go on and on about the fact that too many young people today don't care about what is happening and make it clear their interest is not in what the newsstand outside the convenience store might hold, it won't.
Rather, this week's comments deal with the letters to the editor that are as vital a part of a newspaper as are the other sections.
As we play golf on a Monday morning or while we're sitting around at a cocktail party at a neighbor's house, a discussion of the news invariably ends up with someone bringing up the latest letters to the editor, most of the time those published by The Pilot.
Many of the letters are interesting and make a valid point. They might spout off about the latest incident at the Traffic Circle or the most recent Republican party snafu. They might take to task local governments and their governing bodies or they might simply provide a pat on the back to someone in the community that deserves it.
But there are other letters that leave you shaking your head. I will not name their authors since that would just be giving the writers the added publicity that seems to drive their efforts.
You can virtually count on a weekly commentary from one Whispering Pines resident rambling on about village meetings and her perception of how they should be run. Her letters have been so numerous and so focused on the subject they no longer merit a read.
Same holds true for letters written by an Aberdeen resident. Trying to be cute, he commented about the Pinehurst Traffic Circle and suggested speed bumps be installed to keep traffic to a snail's pace. Though that suggestion had to be made with tongue in cheek, he crossed the line when he insisted that one country, Poland, has taken such action, inferring only Poles would be dumb enough to do so.
When a reader took him to task for the clear insult to those with Polish heritage, the correspondent compounded his irreverent comments by "apologizing," but stressing that the Polish citizen who chastised him probably had to have someone read to him. The inference was not lost by this Pole or any other who picked up The Pilot.
Many years ago, when I was the editor of a New England daily newspaper, The Manchester Union Leader was renowned nation-wide for its "letters to the editor" policy. The paper printed them on the front page, and page 2 and 3 and on and on.
When the presidential primary season arrived and Bill Loeb, the paper's publisher, began his campaign to get anyone but a Democrat elected, it was not unusual for the newspaper to print more than 200 letters a day. Many Americans who were interested in politics would subscribe to the Union Leader for the month prior to the presidential primary just to get a flavor for the diatribe that was flowing across the state and nation.
In fact, the newspaper used to be the farthest right of all the dailies in the country.
Considered a vile, vindictive man and, in the words of one commentator, a "big crazy fish in a very small windswept pond," Loeb ran the Union-Leader in such a way it would have fit in nicely beside Pravda in Communist Moscow's heyday.
The letters to the editor pages were must reading for anyone remotely concerned with politics in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The paper ran letters from all over the country and they were fanatical and widely varied discourses, denouncing everything from Jimmy Carter, the fluoridation of water, and the lack of nuclear weapons in the hands of the New Hampshire National Guard.
Though Loeb and that version of the Manchester Union Leader are long gone, the boomer generation is missing a lot by not picking up a daily paper to read.
Having been involved in both radio and newspaper reporting, I can guarantee no voice media can do justice to a story. On the radio or on television, coverage of a murder trial or a natural disaster is limited by the time allotted to the story. If lucky, the reporter might have three or four minutes to get the details across.
The print journalist, on the other hand, can write as much as necessary to describe the event. True, there may be space limitations to the journal, but if the story warrants more it will get more.
And if the major news stories don't tickle the reader's fancy, he or she can always opt for the letters to the editor. They are guaranteed to entertain in some way or other!
Don Winslow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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