Small Town newspaper has been fiddling with its comics page. As an experiment, and pending syndication negotiations, it printed a few days with a different set of comics than usual and fewer of them. And their test run caused a fire storm of complaints.
A woman I know who tends to see only the worst in every situation stopped me the other day to ask if I had seen what They had done to the comics. How sad, she thought. There were only six or so, and she didn't recognize a single one. She was sure dozens of people would be canceling their subscriptions because of it. I know money is tight, and the more subscriptions the better no matter what idiot signs up, but if someone is going to cancel because they can't read Frank and Ernest every day, I'm inclined to say good riddance. I have that luxury because it isn't my job to sell papers.
Anyway, after a few days of the test page, the newspaper went back to their regular page, sort of, and they printed a story about their reasoning behind the decision. On line, people commented like someone had taken away the roof over their head or stolen their dog. I read the comments because I was amazed and surprised at how important this was to people—I had no idea. Half way down the list, a guy wrote in to suggest the paper needs more "meat and potatoes" in the news, and he wants to read more nationally known columnists. The paper runs most of the major liberal and conservative writers already, so I don't know who he thinks he's missing. But then he said the paper could get rid of the local "foo foo" writers as far as he was concerned. I started thinking in the context of columnists, who are the local writers? Um, that would be me and a woman I like reading from a town north of here.
Not to take it too personally, but is this asshat suggesting I'm a foo-foo writer? And did he really mean froo-froo, which is the accepted term for frilly and unnecessary? Well, let me tell you what I say to that, since I can't write directly to the commentator. I think that local newspapers should carry the work of local writers, especially these days when most people get national news from national sources. We don't rely on local papers for up-to-the-minute national reporting anymore because we've got 24-hour CNN and MSNBC and all the others. And we've got the Internet where you can read every nationally syndicated columnist anytime you want. You can read the comics there, too, for that matter.
When I pick up my local paper, whether my name is in it or not, I want to see what's going on right here. Otherwise, I would subscribe to USA Today or just skip the paper all together. And as for any blabbering I might do in the editorial column being "foo-foo," I have lost track of the people who have stopped me in public places to thank me for what I say. I'm down to earth, they say, and I remind them of things that matter to them, and my subjects are a relief from the heaviness of the economy and politics and a poorly guided military.
Saturday Night Live was introduced when I was in the eighth grade, and I remember Gilda Radner's character sitting at the news desk ranting and going on until someone would stop her and point out that she had misunderstood the topic. She would finish with a whiny "never mind." If I have misunderstood the jackass commentator who thinks local writers are "foo foo" and that he didn't mean me at all, then never mind. But if I have him right, then he can shove his meat and potatoes and go get his news from another source.