Sunday, February 13, 2011

RIP Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

No, the paper hasn't really gone away, not yet anyway, but it has for me.

This morning was my last delivery of the paper.  I've struggled with the decision of whether to continue getting the paper for a couple of years.  I had actually cancelled it last year, but they talked me back by lowering the price by one third.  But, as I mentioned earlier this year, it was going to be much harder to justify continuing to give them my money.

I received their invoice a couple of weeks ago.  Sure enough, they jacked up their rate by another $20.  I expected this, because a few weeks before that, my father cancelled his subscription.  They told him the hike was to pay for the TV Guide.  Why pay $20 for a TV guide that was almost as inaccurate as their reporting?

Oddly, when I called to cancel my subscription, the representative just asked why in a bored tone of voice, like this is something she is hearing a lot of lately.  Another thing that I found peculiar was that they didn't offer me any kind of incentive to change my mind, such as they have done in previous years or with my father just a few weeks ago.  I know that their circulation is an anemic fraction of what it was years ago, so they cannot keep hemorrhaging subscribers and hope to stay afloat much longer.  Their income mostly comes from advertisers, and the rates they can charge are based on circulation.  The less that subscribe to the paper, the less they can charge.

Perhaps the rumors are true that they are going to going to go to a strictly online presence and do away with the hard tree version, like many papers across the country.

Anyway, I was feeling some melancholy as I read the paper this morning, realizing that my morning ritual was coming to an end.  I really did enjoy taking time to read the news in an actual newspaper while I had my morning coffee and ate something before work.

Then I got to their Opinion section.

Now, I only regret the loss of the ritual.  However, after reading this piece of offal, in which they actual support Scott Walker's tyrannical power grab, abuse of office and wholesale attack on the working people of this state that I realized I was no longer reading  a newspaper.

I was reading a piece of propaganda.  It had no basis in fact, and was only designed to further Walker's despotic control of the state.  I might not have always agreed with their editorials, and I have often pointed out the inaccuracies in their reporting, but this went way over the line.

A responsible newspaper would have expressed outrage that Walker was abusing the power of his office by threatening working men and women with military force in order to advance his oppression of them.

A responsible newspaper would have pointed out that it was unfair to balance the budget on the backs of a relative few and endangering our most vulnerable citizens when there were other sources of revenue that could be pursued.  Or that there was other ways of controlling cost, such as fixing the health care problem. ( An even simpler solution to the problem with the skyrocketing cost of health care would be to simply reinstate the regulations that Tommy Thompson had removed when he was governor.  That would cut increased down to manageable levels so that people could afford it and the added bonus of easing up the cost to tax payers. A double win!)

An honest newspaper would have accurately reported the fact that public sector workers have been sharing in the pain with their own pay cuts and higher health care premiums.  An honest newspaper would have also pointed out that public sector workers make nearly 5% less than their private sector counterparts.

The paper did none of these things.  Instead, they unquestioningly parroted whatever Walker told them.  They could have at least saved the tax payers some money by allowing Walker to send them a press release and reprinting it, verbatim.  That's what they do with most of their news stories anyway.

In time, I'm sure I'll figure out a new routine.  It will just take some time getting used to, that's all.  And who knows? I just may like to sleep in a little later in the mornings.

And hopefully, someday, someone will start up a real newspaper in this town again.


  1. Sunday's editorial was the last straw for me too. I'm done. The decision wasn't easy. I was a carrier for the daily and Sunday Journal in Racine for 4 years in the 60's. My father subscribed so I could bring a paper home for him but in reality I was the one who read it every day. When I moved away to college in northern Wisconsin my roommates and I subscribed to the "Wisconsin edition" and even though it came in the mail a day late we read it rather than the local rag because the Journal was then a quality paper. I'm now a state employee working in Madison where I've been subscribing to the paper since the mid 1980s. But now I'm done. As my so-called disposable income shrinks I won't have money to spend on "luxuries" like the Journal-Sentinel. Especially since the editorial staff values me and my work and my collective bargaining rights so little. So long Journal, it's been a good 40+ years.

  2. Well, I tried, but the media conglomerates squeezed us out by starting faux-alt-weeklies of their own. So much for a "liberal" media!

  3. My reaction to that piece of trash was the same: I cancelled, and I wrote the editorial board telling them why. In glossing over Walker's methods, I told them they had committed a cardinal sin of journalism: they buried the lede.
    I had an all-day back & forth with Haynes about this, and all he could basically say was the budget deficit justified Walker's actions. I finally told him that was pathetic coming from a paper that stood up against Joe McCarthy, who also thought the ends justify the means.

    They did publish an editorial online Monday night dissing the decertification. They must have had a lot of complaints. But the damage was done.

  4. Last year I did a speech in Milwaukee about online marketing.

    As I prepared, I documented that Steinhafels was opening new stores while Porters of Racine closed after 153 years. The business reporters didn't want to hear about how Porters of Racine didn't adapt to the web and this was the primary reason that they closed.

    I later wrote a post on a major web site:

    It's frustrating that newspapers don't report the real news anymore.