Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Changes leave questions about future of one daily

I didn’t mean to leave you hanging last week.

I had intended to write a piece about the Cleveland Plain Dealer but ended up giving advice to Laura Kessel on how to make notes for future columns so as never to run out of ideas.

What I mentioned last week about The PD had to do with my perception of its rapid, downhill decline.

Allow me to elaborate.

And be assured that anything I say about what had at one time been a Downtown Monolith is said not in any sense of glee, but rather in a tone of sadness, because I love newspapers, and I hate to see anything bad happen to them.

There was a time when five daily newspapers competed for readers in Lake County. And they were fierce competitors. At least, I thought they were.

But with the demise of the Cleveland Press, the Cleveland News and the Painesville Telegraph, there remained but two dailies left to compete in this county.

But the competitive factor has become something of a joke — especially with The PD now abandoning home delivery on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

(I wonder what the paper will do on Thanksgiving, which falls on Thursday and which usually produces the fattest paper of the year, advertising-wise?)

But I digress.

I now have to go to the corner gas station to pick up The PD three days a week. And it wasn’t even home delivered on Labor Day! Gadzooks! As Durante would say, what a catastroscope!

Until the powers that run The PD made the clearly articulated decision to place their efforts into a timeless daily Internet production with no deadlines and a total absence of competitive zeal, the paper was extremely well edited.

I am a close reader of newspapers, and would venture that the editing of The PD until a month ago was first-rate.

That is no longer the case. I now see a lot of sloppy editing every day. I started marking examples and saving them, but gave up on that project as pointless. Who am I going to make a case to? I talked with people at a Willoughby Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon just Tuesday who told me the same thing. They said The PD editing is careless and slipshod.

There’s one item I saved because I found it amusing. Henry J. Gomez, who is a very good political writer, wrote: “Ohioans are warming to erstwhile NBA star LeBron James, but not to the idea of Gov. John Kasich for president.”

My question: Is there something the basketball player and the league aren’t telling us? Won’t he be back next year?

Whenever I hear anyone misuse the word “erstwhile” my mind drifts back many moons to a meeting of the Mentor Chamber of Commerce at which then-Congressman Dennis Eckart introduced me as “the erstwhile editor of The News-Herald.”

I asked him (and the audience): Is there something you know that I don’t know?

I have consulted beaucoup dictionaries and have found only one definition for “erstwhile.” It means former or formerly. You can look it up. No, don’t bother. I already did.

What has happened to the print edition of The PD makes it look like My Weekly Reader. And I am sad to report that, because there was a time when I enjoyed reading the paper very much.

The first weekend that the “new” Saturday PD came off the presses, I turned in haste to what I hoped would be a business page and the weekly effort of one of my all-time favorite columnists, Teresa Dixon Murray. It was not there!

I was aghast. My breath began coming in short pants. I couldn’t abide the day without her wisdom. Who knows or understands area banking better than she?

But she showed up on Sunday. I could breathe again. I found the birding column on a new day, although I have yet to find the Dog Lady’s column. I guess it has been dropped.

I always appreciated the terrific efforts of The News-Herald, produced at great competitive disadvantage because a suburban daily cannot compete money-wise with a downtown paper.

But as one of my best students, Dave Jones, a former city editor of The N-H who is now retired, would tell you, our watchword was, “Get it first, and get it right.”

Dave was always very good at that.

I think The PD still strives to get it right. But with the paper’s new fascination with the Internet, getting it first is now meaningless.

Perhaps I am the one who is out of step with the current version of reality. But reading a paper on a computer is not for me. Never will be. I need to see ink on my fingers when I’m finished reading.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are spot. The online version is really difficult to navigate. I like the NH online platform. We tried out the PD for three months in their new format but are likely to cut back to Sunday only at the end of the time. We will continue the NH seven days a week. I have a feeling Thanksgiving will be a special bonus edition.

September 7, 2013 at 1:15 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim Collins...My impression is The News Herald leaves questions about its future as a daily paper. The Sunday paper, today's (9/9), and what I'm sure will follow on Tues. and Wed., will be not far removed from your reference to The Weekly Reader. Minimum local news coverage...3 or 4 local by-line articles, minimum "ink" allocated to presenting local news, front page and beyond ink consumed by advertisement,...has made the paper more an advertisement brochure than the daily paper it previously represented. I'm not too optimistic about its viability as a so-called daily. Dave Broski, 43 year subscriber

September 9, 2013 at 4:50 AM 

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