Monday, June 30, 2008

You may be wondering what this is...

Allegedly, this is the front page of the Orlando Sentinel. The newspaper's title says it is the Orlando Sentinel. It arrived at the time and place of the Sentinel. It's even owned by the company as the Sentinel. But this paper is not the Sentinel.

The Orlando Sentinel doesn't chop the Local & State section out of its Monday paper- which is arguably the most important issue. The paper I grew up reading doesn't have its sections color coded as if its entire readership is a gang of five year olds. The paper my family subscribed to valued its veteran journalists and didn't dismantle its editorial board. So, I have no idea what publication was delivered to my house and do not know who subscribed to it.

I know my family would never subscribe to the publication we received this morning, I know this because we are a newspaper family. 

For 22 years, my father wrote for the Orlando Sentinel, for 22 years he could not imagine working in any other field. My father never won any journalism awards nor did he apply for any, but he helped call attention to some issues. He maybe even helped get a few laws changed. His columns never ceased to be thought provoking, whether it provoked clear thinking or death threats. My father left the newspaper business a few years ago. About 2 years ago, he could tell that things were going to turn  rotten. At the time, most of the family thought he was leaving because he didn't like his boss, but within months we found he narrowly escaped unemployment. The Orlando Sentinel was downsizing.

Apparently, in newspaper speak (or even better their parent company : Tribune Speak) downsizing meant plucking apart the Editorial Board (as well as the newsroom). Quickly laid off were numerous family friends, quickly descending was the quality of the paper. 

My thoughts regarding the quality of the paper could be seen as bitter, if not for the fact reader subscriptions were in fact dropping. For some readers the columns that disappeared might have been their reason for reading or maybe even the sign that the Orlando Sentinel still cared about breaking news. I've always had the principle instilled in me: that journalism existed to watch out for the people. My father believes a city without a local paper is a crooked politician or businessman's dream. My mother tells me journalism is essential to democracy. In fact, the definition of a sentinel is a lookout, a person employed to keep watch for some anticipated event. 

I find it hard to believe that a local newspaper that has ads on its front page and replaced 'Local and State' with 'The Law and You' is looking out for anything. And with more of the Orlando Sentinel's knowledgeable veterans being shown the door, I doubt anyone will get a chance to watch anything more than their own back. 

Still, I believe something can be done about the quality of the paper, I believe that something can wake up the management and the owner (Sam Zell, by way of the Tribune). That last line of defense is the reader. As readers we are being fed small blurbs of news/ psuedo-news  instead of a newspaper and for the same price as actual journalism. If you enjoy being treated like a child (or perhaps illiterate) by your city's paper, continue reading the Orlando Sentinel. If you feel that local politics and Molly Ringwald hold virtually the same importance, please continue reading the Sentinel. But if you find the Orlando Sentinel unreadable, trite and a downright mess, I urge you to pull your subscription.

Money is what the management at the Orlando Sentinel can hear.

Go ahead, call up that number to unsubscribe and let them know you've had enough.