I very much enjoyed your Random Thoughts column about reinventing the newspaper (11/13/03). It hit home to me. Many of your “thoughts“ were right on the button. It is too bad that mainstream publishers in the newspaper business continue to force the news and its opinions upon its shrinking readership rather than utilize its customers as resources to find out with that really want. This goes for readers of all ages.
The fact that Gannett is bold enough to gather its editors together in an attempt to teach them to look into their communities - an exercise they should already perform on a daily basis - is admitting that as an industry, newspapers have become out of touch. It is said that news is what the editor says it is. That remains true today, but one has to wonder what is influencing the editorial decisions that are being made. The reason most consumers ditch any product is because the product does not perform the way its competitors do. Newspapers still present the news the way it always has and in the evolution of media, the industry lags behind the competition, but that seems to be okay.
It is a shame that the “canned“ version of Northern Express Weekly never really took off. Your publication seems to be popular among its readers and if one is to believe your promo ads, the paper works for advertisers as well. I have to believe that the publishers were not sold on the idea that someone other than their own editorial staffs could come up with something that works.
I am not sure I agree that newspapers should dump their free websites. Having an electronic version shows that newspapers can be hip - especially if they can generate a profit from it. If nothing else, having a website gives its readers the opportunity to see the newspaper in a different light and maybe someday the user will try the older version - if only during a blackout.
I was fortunate enough to be in the newspaper business for over 20 years, both on the editorial and advertising sides. I heard it all during those years, but what I heard most was that readers wanted better local coverage and they wanted it reported accurately. Newspapers try to listen, but to do it right, newsrooms need to have more people, not fewer, and declining readership and advertising revenues have forced many good people out of the business. Only those with marginal news ability and a profit-driven mindset remain.
I agree that reporters need to be on the street to gather stories people can relate to or those that move them in one way or another. I sat in many “strategy meetings“ with publishers who quickly agreed with that notion and then put the idea aside to fine tune their revenue budgets and cut additional expenses. If communities had more than one daily in their market, there might be a reason to produce a better product. The daily we have in the Grand Traverse region has more insert pages on any given Sunday than it does editorial pages, so it is not difficult to see what drives its goals and ambitions as a company. Its circulation numbers go up because the market is growing. Still, its own marketing statistics will tell you that as a percentage of total households, its coverage is weak in the 1 3-county area it claims as its market.
I do not feel it is necessary to reinvent the newspaper. People will return to reading the newspaper no matter what format it is presented. Kids 50 years ago did not read newspapers as they do not now. The distractions they had back then were different than they are today, but the strength in newspapers is that they cover tomorrow‘s history today. Newspapers have shown the ability to survive despite declining readership and in spite of themselves.
Keep up the good work.
Phil Morman TC
Short on facts
The article “Bound and Gagged“ by Robert Downes in the November 6 issue of Northern Express Weekly was long on rhetoric and short on facts.
The article attacked President Bush‘s decision to stop funding organizations that provide or promote abortions overseas. However, the article said that the “Bush administration prohibits funding to health programs in countries where information or services relating to abortion is available. As a result, health and family planning clinics which have nothing to do with abortion have been denied U.S. funds.“ This is a highly inaccurate skewing of the policy and simply not true. The
policy prohibits taxpayer dollars from going to organizations (not countries) who promote or provide abortions in other countries regardless of whether abortion is legal in that country or not. If abortion was legal in a country, family planning organizations could still receive funding as long as the organization doesn‘t promote or provide abortions.
The fact of the matter is that these organizations could get the funding and provide family planning resources. All they need to do is stop providing and promoting abortions. But they haven‘t done this. They‘ve decided to close up shop instead of dropping their abortion agenda. Why? Because they don‘t care about women, they care about abortion.
The article also shows Planned Parenthood‘s new strategy of continuously linking abortion and birth control as if they were the same issue and pretending to act as if making abortion illegal would somehow affect birth control. Or that all prolife groups are trying to outlaw birth control.
They do this because they can‘t defend abortion. The act of intentionally killing an innocent human is indefensible so Planned Parenthood must attempt to hoodwink the public into believing that abortion and birth control are somehow connected. This is hardly the case as most people can see that there is a large difference between contraception and abortion. One prevents a sperm from fertilizing an egg. The other intentionally kills an unborn child.
Many more assertions from Planned Parenthood are scattered throughout this article but that‘s all they are: assertions. Instead of bringing facts and evidence to the table, this article reads like one of Planned Parenthood‘s rhetoric filled web sites.
Here are some facts that were left out of the article:
Planned Parenthood is America‘s #1 abortion provider - providing 213,026 abortions in 2001.
Planned Parenthood opposes a ban on partial-birth abortion.
Science has proven that the life of an individual human being begins at conception.
Right to Life of Michigan has no position on contraceptives.
Facts, Mr. Downes will find, can be stubborn and eventually will be
David Malone Education Coordinator
Right to Life of Michigan
Never bound & gagged
Thank you Robert Downes for all the great stuff you write. A huge hug for your much-needed cover story, “Bound and Gagged“! It‘s a bell-ringer that should mobilize everyone, especially young women voters, to defend their precious rights to freedom of choice in reproductive matters.
As Martha Lancaster of Planned Parenthood for Northern Michigan says, “It‘s tough to fight all this stuff“ meaning the radical right, misguided conservatives, tongue-tied politicians, and passive voters. What‘s most alarming is the systematic attack on women‘s legal rights by the Bush administration, not only nationally but internationally too. Martha‘s warning to young people is not to be lulled into complacency. Here in Michigan, we‘re lucky to have a strong advocate of women‘s rights as governor to counteract our regressive legislature. But Jennifer Granholm needs loads of help.
As an aging grandmother who has long supported Planned Parenthood and those stout-hearted volunteers that I have known in several states, I will never be bound or gagged. I will urge young women to learn the facts about our short-lived history of almost gaining equal rights and freedom, understand how to protect them and be an educated voter.
Marge Barrett TC
Scare tactics nonsensical
I usually find the articles in Northern Express to be interesting, but the article about Planned Parenthood and the letter from Ms. Horon concerning sex education curriculum caught my attention more than usual (re: 11/6/03 issue).
Ms. Horon talked about the “scare tactics“ of abstinence only curriculum; Planned Parenthood complained that it helps to foster the “risk of pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, family censure, and the possible end of any dream of going to college or establishing a rewarding career.“
So if I have this straight, stressing to kids that abstinence is the best policy not only scares them (“Stopping telling me about syphilis! You‘re scaring me!) but also leads them toward dangerous results (`‘Now I want to go have unprotected sex!)
So if I tell kids the truth about a promiscuous lifestyle -- that condoms are very far from 100% effective, that STD‘s will harm or even kill them, that STD rates are at epidemic proportions, that the chances of pregnancy are pretty good - I am not actually doing them a favor. Rather, l am “scaring“ them. That‘s like saying that people who warn others of the risks of smoking are just “scaring“ potential smokers. Kids are going to smoke anyway, right? Whatever we do, we won‘t tell them the possible consequences of their acttons and suggest they not do it; that would be “scaring“ them with the facts.
Planned Parenthood believes the “abstinence only“ approach increases the risk of disease, pregnancy, family problems and career jeopardy. If I apply the same logic elsewhere, it would appear that Prohibition, not alcohol, increases the risk of liver disease, alcoholism, and drunkenness; anti-smoking crusades, not the cigarettes, increase the risk of lung cancer; and the “This is Your Brain on Drugs“ campaign, not the drugs themselves, increased the risk of addiction.
Maybe it‘s just me, but words like “scary“ seem better applied to a mindset that would rather see people suffer avoidable consequences than ask them to temporarily curb some part of their nature, or endure temporary inconvenience for a long term benefit. I, for one, would rather be “scared“ than be ignorant.
Anthony Weber TC
For hate of weed, or love of money
First of all, I want to thank the people of Northern Michigan for their generous support of me in my current legal struggles. I never imagined that my small sentiments would be so well received. In order to preserve the journalistic integrity of the Northern Express, though, I must clear up a slight misunderstanding. My letter to the editor (“Harsh punishment for smoking pot“ 10/16/03) was written before my final sentencing. With great urging from my family and friends, I decided that I could not do, or have, anything productive from behind bars: No job, no girlfriend, no fresh air, no kind of decent meal, no writings on social discontent, nothing. It was with these incentives, and the current overcrowding of our jails, that I asked for, and was given probation, fines, and a whole slew of mindless, petty hoops to jump through. A nice “song dance“ in front of the judge didn‘t hurt either.
I am still pained by this unconstitutional federal law, more so now that I have to urinate in a cup twice a month, with another man‘s eyes on my penis. This degradation is also part of my punishment, but it is certainly not the most important part. Rev. Steven B. Thompson, in his most eloquent letter (11/6), asked the immortal question, “ls the almighty dollar more important than your soul?“ Well Reverend, I hate to be the bearer of bad news; but yes, the “almighty dollar“ is definitely more important than our souls. At least as far as the State and Federal governments are concerned (they are soul-less). The bureaucracy depends upon money, not on the well-being of a man‘s soul, and certainly not on Life, Liberty, or the PURSUlT OF HAPPINESS.
Pursuit of happiness, that‘s a funny statement. Rev. Thompson, I would love to keep on smoking that “sacred, God-given herb,“ but I can‘t. Good is taking its sweet time to triumph over evil. The state is now my God, my guardian, and my higher-power for the next 11 months; upon pain of incarceration, if I defy them. Even God would wait until I was dead before sending me to hell. But, alas, this hell may be the world we live in. A world of money and power, not love and peace, not an existence of tranquility, but one of control.
And, as far as Judge Gilbert speaking out against marijuana prohibition, that will never happen. He is a tool of the established bureaucracy, and he will do whatever it takes to get back into his position of power. Including making up his own “song & dance“ in front of whatever review board that may, or may not, reinstate him. We already know how he truly feels about marijuana, he has shown us through his actions and his recent admissions. That is the best we will ever get from him, his own non-criminal record. There is no justice in this legal system, only the status-quo; money, power, control, and subservience. God, I love America. (We have the sweetest sounding lies.)
Robert L. Pierce TC
Give peaceniks a chance
Thanks to travel agent pim Vodge for calling attention to the Northern Express reports (10/30, 11/6 & 13) from seven people from our region traveling through Israel and the occupied West Bank Called “Traverse for Peace.“ Their purpose is interviewing Israelis and Palestinians about the “Road Map to Peace“ on both sides of the wall being built by Israel.
Some answers to Dodge‘s concerns as written to the Express in the Nov. 13 issue: (1) the interviews involved Israeli people in Jerusalem, including members of the military, Israeli and Palestinian people working together on a variety of nonviolent responses to the violence, as well as victims of violence; (2) “No such country as Palestine at this time.“? Webster defines “country“ as “an area, region, the whole territory, the people of a nation, the land of one‘s birth or citizenship“ and “nation“ first meaning is “a stable community of people with a territory, history, culture and Ianguage in common.“ Palestine fits the definition of a country. (3) Dodge asks, “If numerous knowledgeable world leaders cannot effect peace, how in the world does this group feel that by putting themselves -- and others -- in harm‘s way would accomplish anything at all?“ Good question. Our mainstreem media does not cover the many stories of active nonviolence by Israeli, Palestinian, and International activists. They often work together to prevent, intervene, and protest the episodes of violence that make up daily life in Israel and Palestine. That is precisely why Traverse for Peace was invited by these groups to document their stories.
Readers can hear some of these stories by members of Traverse for Peace at the Traverse Area District Library, Monday, December 1, at 7 p.m.
Thom Shea TC