Two bills landed on my desk last week. I promptly paid both. One was for an annual subscription to the Detroit Free Press and the other was for the Farmington Observer. I regularly read both those publications, along with the weekly Farmington Press tabloid and this daily Patch on-line newsletter.
In a recent magazine column―who wrote it and which magazine published it escape me―the author, the son of immigrants, told the story of how his father used to gather the family together when it was time to pay the taxes. It was with great joy and ceremony that he wrote that check, understanding it was a cheap price for the life he and his family were able to live in this country.
I believe it’s my obligation to pay for newspaper subscriptions in much the same sense. We as individuals must support our local media as best we can. They are vital to our community now and in the future.
Modern technology has thrown a monkey wrench into what used to be known as the main-stream media. Today’s 24-hour news cycle took its first breath with the TV news program Nightline back during the Carter Administration when the Iranian government held American diplomats hostage for 444 days. Next came Ted Turner, who launched the then unique Cable News Network to enormous skepticism. The advent of the Internet in all its modes, along with countless CNN derivatives on TV and radio, lead to the death knell for daily newspapers across the country.
The old joke about there being nothing older than “yesterday’s news” took on new meaning. Why would anyone want to pay for a newspaper reporting what happened a day ago when you could get the same thing with much more current news for free?
Why, indeed? Here’s why: Kwame Kilpatrick. Yes, the audacious, criminal, soon-to-be-paroled-only-to-face-much-more-serious-federal-charges ex-mayor of Detroit is the ideal example of why we need to support the local news media in all its forms. Without the trained, dedicated, tenacious team of Detroit Free Press reporters there’s every reason to believe that Kilpatrick and what the feds refer to as the “Kilpatrick Enterprise” would still be in business today.
No anonymous Internet bloggers, no national if it bleeds it leads TV news channels, no one other than a team of professional journalists could have shone the light of day on those bums.
Reporting is a serious business. Like many professionals in any endeavor, real reporters make doing the extremely difficult look easy. But it isn’t. They are committed to finding the truth, verifying their findings through a clearly defined ethical process, and then explaining the facts in thoughtful prose the rest of us can understand. These men and women, and the business organizations that employ them, need to get paid. They’re not doing it for fun or for their good looks. It’s hard work, and I’m only too glad to pay them for it.
Much the same can be said about the editor and reporters employed by this Patch newsletter, along with the two local print newspapers. We citizens of Farmington and Farmington Hills simply wouldn’t know the truth about what’s happening in our communities without them. Did the school board really just sell Eagle School to a crazed group of Muslim jihadists? No, but without access to the whole story we’d only be exposed to second- and third-hand rumors from misinformed neighbors. Did the kid across the street win a swim meet? What’s the garbage pickup schedule for the holiday weekend? Where can I go for a good Chinese dinner?
The answers aren’t free. They never have been. What’s changed is where we look to find them. Some newspapers have gone into survival mode like the Free Press and Detroit News which, for over a year now, have been experimenting with a thrice-weekly home delivery scheme that appears to be working. No-charge newsletters like Patch depend on paid advertisers to cover the costs and salaries, such as they are, to keep all of us up-to-date. Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch editor Joni Hubred-Golden deserves a lot of credit for having the gumption to launch and nourish this outlet. One way to thank her for her endeavors on our behalf is to support the advertisers who appear on these pages. Without that income, Patch goes away.
And for the old-fashioned newspapers that periodically get delivered to your driveway, pay up. It’s way less expensive than any alternative you could imagine.