As the Leader-Telegram’s entertainment reporter, the question I get asked most often is, “So you get to, like, attend all the concerts and shows and everything, right?”
Well, no. I get to report on those concerts and shows beforehand so our readers can be informed about everything happening and make decisions about what they would like to spend their valuable free time doing. I research events that are coming up and seek out artists and performers to share their stories and make their voices heard.
And while the title can sound glamorous, and even though I love my job, it is still that: a job. In addition to writing, I am responsible for laying out the entertainment pages our print subscribers pick up on Thursdays and Sundays. I do the mundane — but oh-so valuable to our readers — task of putting together a 2,000-plus-word calendar each week. I won’t bore you with the rest, but I hope you get my point.
With the recent announcement the Leader-Telegram is going to ask its online subscribers beginning in January to pay a fee for our local content, just as our print subscribers always have, I have learned something else: Our work isn’t valued by some in our community.
Comments online can get nasty, and I have to believe the majority of people don’t feel this way, but the response of, “I can get my news for free elsewhere,” has been very disheartening to hear.
Because the truth is you can’t get the level of information we offer you anywhere else. You can get the basics, sure, from a broadcast report or a Facebook post. You can attend a City Council or school board meeting and hear the decisions they’re making, but you aren’t going to get background on why they are making those decisions.
You aren’t going to get an in-depth story on Twitter about how a father feels about losing his 6-month-old son at the hands of a 10-year-old girl, how huffing has impacted the Chippewa Valley recently and local officials’ responses, how a local man found out he had breast cancer after suffering a golf-related arm injury or how the late Augusta man Philo Nelson Kelley “Pinky” Englesby was honored 18 years after his death in 2000 for his service in the Navy during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
And I value our local radio and TV stations as much as the next person, but here’s the thing: You can’t get the same amount of information in a two-minute news segment as you can in a 600-plus-word article.
Sure, you can scroll Twitter for national and statewide news, but you aren’t going to find anything about your pastor starting up a special needs show choir for his daughter there. You aren’t going to find information about the Cadott school district’s staff beginning their day with mindfulness, or how Elk Mound senior Morgan Radtke earned her position as all-area volleyball player of the year.
To be an informed member of society, you need to know what’s going on in your community. And no one gives you a better, more complete picture of that than your local newspaper.
We are willing to pay $5 for a sugar-filled latte five days a week, $7.99 a month for Netflix and $9.99 a month for Spotify Premium. Why not $12 a month to read in-depth information about the community we live in, so we can know what’s happening around us? That seems more valuable to me than any cup of coffee (and, as a journalist, I love my coffee).
The same content you have been reading for free online is the content your 80-year-old grandma has been paying for since the day she decided it was important to her to subscribe to the local paper.
Nothing is free, and the problem with journalism is, back in the 1990s, editors and publishers didn’t realize the mistake they were making by putting the same content on the internet for no charge.
Bigger papers such as the New York Times and Washington Post have realized this and made the transition, but it’s not as easy for a community newspaper with a much smaller readership to do the same.
It needs the support of its community. And here in Eau Claire, where we bill ourselves as a “thriving creative economy” and continually spread the message of “supporting local,” why would we bash the only local newspaper we have, not to mention the hardworking journalists who bring that news to you every day?