A View From the Sawmill: Let’s be for something, not merely against everythingLet me begin by saying I’m sorry that our former editor, Forrest Johnson, is gone. I enjoyed our interaction on topics political, social and philosophical over the years, and hope we are able to continue our conversations, debates and exchanges.
By: Greg Hull, Lake County News Chronicle
Let me begin by saying I’m sorry that our former editor, Forrest Johnson, is gone. I enjoyed our interaction on topics political, social and philosophical over the years, and hope we are able to continue our conversations, debates and exchanges.
So Forrest is gone. But our local newspaper isn’t. At least not yet. The loss of one is disappointing; the loss of the other would be tragic.
Many folks (although their number is short of legion) have told me in one form or another that they intend to cancel their subscriptions to the Chronicle in protest. That sentiment is certainly noble; the act may be pointless, and even self-defeating.
No doubt mass cancellations of subscriptions would be noticed by the owners. However, I doubt it would result in the former editor returning. People, personalities and relationships being what they are, bridges once burnt are exceedingly difficult to rebuild.
I’m guessing that while the owners understand something of the role and function of a newspaper in a small town, their real motive has less to do with social cohesion, and more with profit. And as I have said in these pages before, profit is NOT a dirty word. Newspapers are having an increasingly difficult time competing with other news sources, as witnessed by bankruptcies of major publishers like the Chicago Tribune. Small town weeklies such as ours are an even greater business challenge.
Yet the Chronicle, like all other small town papers, serves a vital and important function in our community. They are one of the ways we all stay connected. I don’t read the Chronicle to find out what’s going on in the world at large. I read it to find out what the pulse and mood of the community is. I peruse the editorials, the letters to the editors, read the news items and the obituaries. Sometimes I even glance at the sports section, although never when anyone is watching me.
I already have an idea what’s going on in the world at large; in these pages I find what friends and acquaintances think about the greater issues and events.
If enough people cancel their subscriptions to the Chronicle, I doubt it will move the owners to change their decisions. It could, however, move them to close the business down. That would be a tragic loss for us all. We would lose a vital connection that we have and need with each other, an institution which makes a community like ours function.
So, we’re caught in something of a love/hate relationship. We need the Chronicle to continue to be printed and distributed. The owners need us because we’re the ones who buy the paper. But we don’t like to pay for what we don’t like; they don’t want to make business decisions by polls and public opinion.
So, short of the city council buying the paper out and operating it as a city owned business (an abominably bad idea) or an alternative paper being started and going into competition (slightly more likely than me winning the lottery, but only because I don’t buy lottery tickets) what we have is the Chronicle. It’s up to us, and the owners, to make it what we both need and want.
Of course, in writing these lines, I’m probably preaching to the choir. The ones who have canceled won’t be reading it. This means I’d like to ask those reading this to do something. When the topic of the paper comes up with those who have decided to stop taking it, explain to them this position. A bad situation is not made better by quitting and walking away. There is little point in cutting off our nose to spite our face.
We need the Chronicle; it’s an essential part of our community. By not supporting it, we hurt ourselves more than anyone else.
So, to the former editor, I doff my battered felt fedora, itself an ironic and iconic emblem of newspapermen of bygone days. Thanks for printing my musings over the years. As to your work and efforts here, I have no doubt Uncle Wendell would be proud of what one of his students accomplished.
To Holly, the new editor, you have some big shoes to fill. But I suspect you are up to it. Good luck, and you can count on me to help in whatever way I am able.
To our community, let’s support the Chronicle, and make it into the paper we all need, and can rely on. Let the owners know what we want and need, not merely what we’re mad about. Let’s be for something, not merely against everything.
And, to the owners, remember as the books are balanced, what is being done here is much more than just a matter of profit and loss. The Chronicle is a vital institution in our little corner of the world.
If we all do that, no one will be cutting off their nose to spite their face.
Greg Hull owns and operates Hull’s Sawmill. He never once took an English class at UMD from his Uncle Wendell.