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Mystery Columnist: to Publish, or not to Publish?

Mystery Manby Mystery Columnist | What would life be like without any news media? People love to complain about a small town community newspaper. Newspapers are one of the things many people take for granted- until they are gone. I suggest many residents in and around Charlestown can relate since there is no longer a Leader delivered to their door.

I am personally a print news guy. For me there is no more aesthetic pleasure than to sit on the couch, prop my feet up on the coffee table and relax while thumbing through a newspaper. Even though I am a Face book junkie- I really don’t enjoy trying to read lengthy news articles where I have to scroll. And when reading a newspaper I have never once had a pop-up ad jump out and block paragraph three!

I fully realize that I am as archaic and nearly as extinct as a flying pterodactyl. If newspapers have to continue to keep a regular print newspaper selling to stay in business, well quite frankly, they won’t be! Every newspaper office that still delivers a physical product is officially in the” tweener” stage.  Somewhere between barely staying afloat and listing the printing press on craigslist.

Newspapers simply cannot keep up with the social media competition based solely on their printed product any longer. As long ago as 2012 a Pew Research poll found that only 23% of Americans said they read a newspaper regularly. And that was only sporadically regular and not as an everyday reader subscriber. I can assume that number isn’t nearly as high today.

Of course every print news operation today has an on line version. While helpful; legitimate newspapers that publish on line cannot compete with the Wild West social media publishing; Newspapers are subject to different libel laws. If you have ever been published on a regular basis in a printed newspaper you understand there are no hard and fast rules regarding who and what gets published. It is up to the editor and/or publisher as to what is offensive, vulgar, and profane. And then there’s the bane of almost anyone who has ever written regularly for a print newspaper operation; that slippery slope known as political correctness.

I have upon occasion been told something that I submitted for publication is racially or politically insensitive. Almost every time that would involve a humorous submission. I once had an editor tell me that some people might find a humor column offensive. I then tried to explain to a person whom I knew had almost no sense of humor that almost any good humor or political/social satire piece was bound to offend somebody. Humor in part when it is being done as a form of social commentary is about honesty and attacking stereotypes.  In today’s climate of sensitivity many varied groups just wait to find something in print that they can exploit to garner attention for their cause.

The other rule for a newspaper editor involves being careful to only print things that are factual. This fact alone has social media springing way ahead of the print media. Follow Face book and you will notice that many of today’s consumers would rather circulate a lie and then debate with people they don’t know over something that is false than to simply research and prove something on there is totally not true. I will tell you from personal experience that if you prove that things people post are not true you will often become the bad guy. They can get real ugly with you for simply advising them that they are posting a lie. As much as our current President likes to refer to “fake news” the amount of false information posted daily on social media makes actual legitimate newspaper operations look like the book of Solomon.

Look, I don’t have the answers.  I am not even totally sure of the questions any longer. I absolutely am certain there will not be a printed newspaper in 50 years. I would bet you an expensive lunch that newspapers will still be delivered in five years.

So there you have it. At some time in the future between 5 and 50 years you and I will no longer be able to read the daily news delivered to your door step newspaper sitting in front of the fireplace with Old Yeller curled up in a ball resting his head on your feet. And for some of the younger generation that won’t change anything. For people like me it will be real sad like losing an old friend.

And I guess I always think of the practical. Try to start a flame in the outdoor fire pit by rolling up your laptop computer or take that electronic notebook and wrap up your dripping watermelon rind. Swat a fly on the window pane with your Smart phone.

Someday even that majority percentage of you who don’t ever read a printed version of a news story will miss them when you want them.  Taking your electronic equipment into the bathroom for reading material just doesn’t have that old familiarity and comforting personal satisfaction for me.

And there is one of the oldest and funniest one- liners ever delivered by the seventh grader emcee at the annual Middle Road School Fall Festival talent show. Someday in the future when you ask a young person, “What is black and white and read all over?” They will stare at you like you just asked them if they wanted to go shopping at the Mall!


Can you guess the identity of our Mystery Columnist? Stay tuned for more clues!

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