the chain gang

by underswansea

Back in September something happened and I stopped reading both local newspapers.

It had been a long time coming. I have history with both newspapers. I started The Pioneer just over ten years ago and my parents owned and operated The Valley Echo for over thirty years. I literally grew up among the presses and composing equipment in the back shop.

I have read just about every word of every issue since I was in my teens. I can say unequivocally I have read The Pioneer cover-to-cover since it’s inception. It helps that I enjoy reading all newspapers, local and national.

One of the reasons I started The Pioneer was The Valley Echo, after many owners, had fallen into the hands of Black Community Newspapers, a large chain notorious for putting out crappy newspapers.

Black Community Newspapers is owned by David Black, a British Columbia millionaire, he runs community newspapers the way McDonalds runs restaurants. His newspapers are identical to each other with little invested in editorial or content. He is a businessman first, after all.

To me newspapers have always been more than investments. They record history and reflect the people of the community. And when I say, people of the community, I don’t mean just the businesspeople and big shots, but all people.

Black’s business model is to pander to the elite; after all they are the ones buying advertising. Perhaps, I am being naive or old fashioned. Maybe that’s the way it has to be in this day and age.

I knew I would never be a success with The Pioneer. I would piss off the A type advertisers with every click of the keyboard. It wouldn’t matter if we had twice the circulation of the Black newspaper.

However, to do it was exhilarating. Career wise it was the greatest thing I’ve done and the stupidest. The Pioneer still has much the same format as ten years ago. Including the masthead of the Columbia wetlands I photographed with the first digital camera I owned. When I took that picture, a year before the first newspaper was published, I knew it would be the cover of the newspaper.

I sold The Pioneer to an independent businessperson. She had the right mix of ruthful ambition and a rich husband that would assure the continued success of The Pioneer. I had hope for her.

When it came time for her to sell she sold to a chain newspaper company with close ties to Black.

A short time later Black was running both newspapers out of the same office

The Pioneer turned ten last September. I was asked to submit an article about getting the newspaper off the ground. I wrote about the first people that worked on the paper. It was a great staff. The best people I’ve ever worked with, including the person I eventually sold to.

That person was also asked to write an article. It was exactly as expected, a formulaic, self-serving pile of nonsense.

Here’s the thing about bad newspapers and it’s how they keep going; it’s only bullshit if people recognize it as such. If people knew what was in a McDonald’s hamburger they’d never eat it.

For me I can’t eat it or read it any longer. And I know I’m not the only one.

The funny thing is I don’t miss it. Even after all the years of a steady diet of bullshit.