This cogitation-inducing photo was taken in September 2011 in Port St. Joe, Fla.
Today begins my series of irregular blogs, or perhaps that should be my irregular series of blogs. Probably both.
As I begin, I am reminded of Malcolm and Glessie Jones. They ran the Sweetwater (TN) Valley Times some 35 years ago when I was managing editor of The Daily Post-Athenian in nearby Athens, TN.
We got to know each other primarily because one family owned both newspapers, as well as others strung between Chattanooga and Tri-Cities. The weekly Times was printed at The DPA, so I got to see Malcolm and Glessie at least once a week.
I enjoyed reading Malcolm’s column, Just a-Cogitatin’. The name was spot-on. Not just because it was what Malcolm was thinking about that week, but because it was what the community was thinking about as well.
Not that everyone had the same opinion. Au contraire. But cogitating on a topic is more fruitful if everyone’s opinion is heard. Malcolm was all about providing the community megaphone.
So here, for Malcolm and Glessie, is Just a-Cogitatin’ reborn.
You probably know I’m a retired journalist. Been out of the game for eight years now. By 2009, the Internet had taught the masses they don’t have to pay for news. The masses didn’t care that rectitude was flushed down the same toilet as their weekly circulation bills.
The first casualty was the editorial department. (In newspaper parlance, “editorial” encompasses all non-advertising pages, from city council coverage to football to weddings and, yes, to the opinion pages.)
To trim costs, jobs have been sacrificed, lives overturned. When it was my time to go, my staff of about a dozen copy editors was in the throes of not just reduction, but elimination. Few newspapers today can afford the luxury of copy editors.
And the disaster is not over. Only this week, The Tennessean announced elimination of 88 more jobs in the editorial department.
As readership declines, newspaper staffs have suffered, first the editorial, then the advertising. The cuts are necessitated by advertising revenue. Meny of the advertising dollars are staying in the advertisers’ pockets. Internet advertising, its efficacy not yet known, is cheaper than print — if it exists at all. CraigsList was a razor to the jugular for print media; how do you compete with free? In the old days – only 20 years ago – classified advertising was the bottomless pit of money. Now it’s just an empty pit.
Perhaps this blog is a scratch on the writing itch that has not died with the newspapers.
Could be. I realized the itch last January when I was asked to write a piece for my college fraternity’s national e-zine. I’ll admit that during the interview and writing, I felt the same old urges. And when it was published, I got the same sense of accomplishment that every writer feels when a piece is published.
Not sure this blog will satisfy the itch, but here goes.