#8- v. the Times

The Beaver County Times is the major daily newspaper in, well, Beaver County. I have a long history with this newspaper. My brother delivered the paper on a local foot route for many years, and I was his young tagalong. Then, I inherited the route from him when he went to high school--I woke at 5:30 a.m. for six or so years to serve 40+ happy families. I even got a college scholarship out of it! Now, I'm a "stringer" writer for the Times; this means that I occasionally (as in, once a year or less) see something I wrote pop up in the newspaper. Go me.

But speaking of "go," my main contribution is to the newspaper's monthly entertainment offshoot, called Go Magazine. They hired me shortly after their debut a year and a half ago. I write the music reviews in each issue, and sometimes contribute feature articles or other entertainment-related blurbs.

I think, after a 15-year friendship that has bordered--at times--on love affair, I've had it with the newspaper. Had it as in 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore,' to quote Sidney Lumet's famous movie. The Beaver County Times is in a sad, sad state. Here are some reasons why:

-The Times values style over substance--Oversized fonts and massive photos might work once in a while, but not in every section/every day. One-liners are OK, but not as every headline. It's obvious that the paper wants to draw a younger crowd, but the folks in charge are making the poor assumption that people under 30 only want to see tacky ads and flashy design. Go Magazine is extremely guilty of this; I'd wager that it's all style, no substance. In fact, when they hired me, they told me to not write reviews so much as pithy one-liners. I guess I woke up.

-The Times is increasingly disinterested in Beaver County--Aside from obituaries and the police/fire report, very little in the Times is geared toward Beaver County. Some sections obviously can't center around it (World News), but having the local news area filled with stuff about Philadelphia is almost funny. People--young people especially--complain that nothing ever happens in the county. That's a foolish mindset, but it's basically enforced by the largest publication in the area. Maybe all of this is because....

-The Times is utilizing fewer local writers--Instead, they're using more and more AP articles about crazy hobos or useless polls ("Studies show that Asian American men over 40 are more likely to Super Size than any other Asian demographic"). And, they pay me for music reviews for a magazine no one reads--why not just regurgitate them in the daily paper, instead of getting AP reviews of the same albums? The paper could be retitled: the Beaver County Times, Just Kidding.

-The Times focuses mostly on sports and pop culture--The first one is understandable, to a degree: Beaver County is a hotbed of high school football fanaticism, and that will never change. But on a daily basis, maybe 3/5 of the paper is taken up by sports and entertainment; it's not uncommon for the front page to be covered with sports junk. I guess little Joey's field goal IS very important, moreso than, say, attempts to revitalize the community. But what gets me is the 'Entertainment' section. It's just lists of the top downloads on iTunes, comments from gossip magazine, photos of Johnny Depp, and maybe an actual article. And it's all stuff I could've found out last week, for free.

-Go Magazine is trash--And I write for it. I'm sticking with it because I hope it'll change, but the ship is sinking so fast that I might have to bail sooner than later. When I first joined the staff, I was under the impression that I was among folks that cared about the arts. False; I'm writing for a low-rent Pittsburgh City Paper. It's obvious that they're gearing it for a younger audience. I'm fine with that. But I'm insulted that the honchos have to use slick packaging and articles about 'f--- buddies' to draw a crowd. Are the editors trying to replay their college years in some alternate reality daydream, one filled with casual sex and bad clip art? Maybe. I don't even know what's going into the magazine these days; most of the places that used to carry it stopped. Go them. Ha.

It's not hopeless, though. The Times has many good qualities. There are some talented writers aboard, and I hope they don't leave. The Times also does, once in a while, put the spotlight on local people and places that deserve it. It doesn't happen as often as it ought to.

I think the Times can change. I think people should recognize any problems and try to do something about it. I'm not yelling for Beaver Countians to take up arms, or the like; but if you see something in the paper you don't like, let the editors know about it. Let them know about the things that they do well, and the ones they don't. Don't shrug it off and forget about it. Other counties have great newspapers. Why can't we?

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 9/13/2006 11:26:00 PM,


At 11:52 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. You totally hit the nail on the head with this one, and basically have repeated most of the complaints I, and my family, have had about the paper. I yearn for the days of the Beaver Valley Star, and any other upstart newspaper that was squashed by the Times and their mega-company backing them.

My only other addition would be their blatant disrespect for public officials, and their incredibly open liberal-bias... but that's just me.

What they need is an editor from Beaver County who appreciates this place, and the community, as much as folks like you and I do.

At 12:49 AM, Blogger lucas said...

the Times is a joke, sure, but nearly all of the "go" sections in most papers are just pathetic. essentially, they seem to be written entirely for people who don't have access to the internet.

i always got the impression that beyond John Perrota (sp?), who is nationally considered the expert on the Pirates, the Times was pretty much rubbish

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Buddy Chamberlain said...

People still read newspapers? I thought between CCN Headline News and Myspace bulletins, I got the full scoop on what's going down in my world! :-P

Seriously, though, it sounds like you have some very valid gripes. As much as my hometown paper bored me, it was always full of local happenings (even if it was just ice cream socials and the county fair). Hopefully BCT will wake up and refocus on what makes Beaver County what it is: a place unique from any other valley on this planet.


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