Part of our "family" has died, and it has caused much sadness and the jobs of 56 employees.
writing here about the March 9, 2012 announcement from the publisher of
the Village Soup print and online papers that, effective immediately,
they are going out of business.
That group includes the
century-old Bar Harbor Times, as well as the VillageSoup Journal that
covered Belfast, Augusta's Capital Weekly, and VillageSoup Gazette,
which covered local news and features in the Rockland area.
that I've always shown respect for weeklies, including the first one for
which I wrote -- also my first journalism job -- in Norway, Maine, the
Advertiser-Democrat. I had taken my elementary-school-age son with me
during an interview of the Norway town manager, and my son made himself
comfortable by sitting in the town manger's very comfortable desk chair.
"You can sit there," the town manager told him,"but your father can't. He works for that awful weekly."
remember little about that "awful" weekly, but I do remember the
upstairs corner office in which the two or three of us who wrote for the
paper tippy-tapped our stories. My desk was about 30 feet from one of
those round metal things that take up space on electric poles, and in
summer during thunder bumpers that round metal thing would occasionally
blast off like a cannon. We knew it wasn't a reader shooting at us,
because even though we misspelled their names a fair amount and reported
embarrassing things about them, they were too polite to be shooting at
the weekly's news staff.
I also remember a fellow reporter, who
seemed to love embarrassing people when he wrote about them. (This was
before he left the paper to study journalism at a Christian college in
some other state.) On one occasion, his antique -- not actually, just in
mileage and our opinion of it -- auto caught fire while parked across
the street from our building. I took the photos and wrote the story.
objected, but I explained that embarrassment for readers that goes
around eventually comes around to embarrass the reporter who wrote those
stories. He mumbled some unChristian comments, which I will not repeat
here. (I would if I could remember them.)
I also remember
resigning because the publisher was upset with me as news editor for
being unable to cover the 20 towns in our area with the one reporter
remaining on the staff. Even then, money was a major problem for
Which brings me to a major problem for weeklies.
Dolores and I love to have our coffee with our feet up on chairs and
reading the paper. The problem with the weeklies we read -- or did read
until the March 9 announcement of the end of these papers -- was that
there was little actual news. Anything newsworthy had already been
published in a daily, the same problem we faced in Norway.
problem also leads to a shortage of advertisers, who, in fact pay the
publishing bill. We mute the ads on TV because they are so annoying, but
in print we glance at them in passing as we flip the page.
Advertisers get much more for their money in print newspapers than on our TV.
with the Norway weekly, the publisher complained a lot that we couldn't
keep up with the two area dailies in the matter of news coverage.
Awhile after resigning, I obtained a position with a daily, the Lewiston
While with the Sun Journal, at some point in the
news cycle I would sometimes share information with a reporter from the
Advertiser. All of us who knew the routine would chuckle about this
strange feeding-the-bedfellow routine. But all of us had been and were
sharing the same would-be news.
One reporter, who wrote for the
other daily, the Portland Press Herald, was very competitive about news
gathering. He was so competitive that at press conferences, fires, or
other hot tales of some interest, he would position himself in front of
me, spread his elbows to both sides to block my photo-taking view, and
probably laughed at how important he was on the local news scene.
He was eventually laid off and went back to logging his woodlot, as far as rumor revealed.
got to know the Belfast Republican Journal, the forerunner of the
VillageSoup Journal, when I lived in Swanville, taught at Mt. View
Junior High (anyone nowadays recall what a junior high was?), and served
as a part-time stringer for the Bangor Daily News. To my and
acquaintances' keen, knowing minds, the news and opinions the Belfast
paper published were generally negative and full of errors. Therefore it
earned the nickname the Belfast Bellyache.
This is too bad,
because many weeklies get the same treatment from locals, although they
are working their hearts out to produce a good weekly product.
the Village Soup papers gone from the scene, Dolores and I have to wait
for Saturday morning for the feet-on-the-chair with coffee routine,
using the Bangor Daily News weekend edition as our remaining instrument
of said pleasant morning occupation.
having just been written, I would like to share what may be the final
words we'll read from the publisher of the print and online papers going
out of business at this moment. Below, copied from the Village Soup
website, are those sad words:
is with deep regret that I inform you that effective Friday, March 9,
2012, we will discontinue these publications. The company will cease
operation beyond that which is necessary to complete the closure
The profound changes in the newspaper publishing
business, a weak economy and our investment in new products created
severe financial challenges. Over the recent months, I have worked with
outside professionals to achieve a financial restructuring that would
allow us to continue. These efforts failed as of 3 p.m. today, March 9,
2012. We can no longer sustain our operations.
I am deeply saddened by the disruption this brings to the lives of our 56 dedicated staff members.
am grateful for the loyal support and participation of current
subscribers, members, users, advertisers, vendors and my staff. I am
confident that others will step forward and replace the loss of
professional journalism and community service previously provided by our
Richard M. Anderson"
aware that some people do the news-reading routine with their cellphone
computer, their laptop, or even their desktop beast. But how can that
be compared with putting your feet up on a chair, sipping coffee,
sharing various sections of the print newspaper, and discussing the
stories we find therein? (Of course, our desktop computer is the only
way we can read the Magic City News, since it is an online paper.)
think of the health benefits print papers provide. Putting your feet up
is good for your legs, gives them a break from sitting or standing and
improves the circulation a wee bit.
If all the papers go out of
business or even go online, we'll have to resort to the same
computer-reading position the rest of the civilized world uses.
That means we'll have to read books with our Saturday-morning coffee.
What if print books also disappear?
What will we do with our feet on Saturday morning?
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.