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Friday, May 26, 2006

Newspaper Rx

Philadelphia’s two major papers — The Inquirer and Daily News — were sold to private investors this week after years of corporate ownership. As I heard and read various opinions on what this all means to news coverage, I began wondering what I would want to see in a newspaper.

Opening anything besides the sports page is a rarity for me for two reasons. First of all, most of it is irrelevant to my life. Wednesday’s Inquirer had three front page stories — the sale of the paper, the GOP’s outlook in PA, and the Washington-area sniper. Sorry but none of that truly affects anyone.

I know, I know, it all affects me, right? Sure, I can come up with sweeping statements about the importance of the judicial system, the media, and the government impacting everyone’s life. But few care enough to read long, stylistic articles about these subjects.

So, the first thing I would do is bring back pyramid style writing. This is not the ranting of an X-generation guy who is too impatient to read an article. I’m just sick of every damn story having some dramatic or cutesy opening. Give me what the hell happened and move on. Leave column writing to columnists.

Second, I think papers should do a better job of educating readers. Educating, not influencing. Why is Social Security doomed? Why hasn’t Iraq become self-governing yet? Stop babbling away about the political battles, and, as much as possible, offer concise explanations of the real issues. And, by the way, don’t be afraid to do it again next month.

In fact, make those the only stories you repeat. In Philly we had 24-hours of Terrell Owens coverage for about six months last year. It was the same idiotic story day after day. Cover news, not hype.

Next, eliminate bogus quotes. Simply don’t print any more canned quotes that mean nothing, aren’t meant to mean anything, and are known not to mean anything. I realize there may never be another quote from most athletes after a bad loss or politicians accused of a crime, but I can live with that.

Stop covering what celeb slept with what other celeb. Are people who care about that stuff really reading the paper?

Finally, I can’t write a post like this without mentioning the lack of coverage concerning people with disabilities. I’ve said it before; if any other minority faced the level of unemployment we do, it would dominate the news. But it doesn’t fit the formula of covering people with disabilities in human interest stories only, so it’s ignored.

Clearly, this doesn’t cure all that ails newspapers. But it’s one man’s opinion for a good start.

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