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More bad news for newspapers hits The RG

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By BEN OLSON/ for The Herald  —  One of my great pleasures in life has been to buy a daily newspaper, tuck it under my arm, enter a restaurant and have a waitress take my order and bring me my piping hot food, keeping my coffee cup filled for my entire visit. Slowly absorbing a Denver omelet, sufficient caffeine and all the news that’s fit to print without having to do anything but pay for it at the end was my idea of heaven. 

The restaurant with a waitress taking my order and cheerfully bringing my food is fast becoming a rarity. A restaurant, or even a town, that has a newspaper rack is getting to be even more unusual. It makes me sad. More than that, it makes me feel as if I am a relic of a bygone era. 

I heard, with sadness, today on public radio that the Eugene Register-Guard will no longer be accepting, or printing letters to the editor. Gannett, which owns the USA Today and newspapers in 46 states, has managed to save a few more dollars by cutting out what they feel is an unnecessary service to their readers. The other Oregon paper owned by Gannett, the Statesman Journal in Salem has already dropped that feature in their publication. 

For all the wonderful things that the internet has provided us, it has spelled the death-knell of the daily paper. But rather than just putting the papers out of their misery, Gannett, and the other syndicates have managed to take 20 years to bleed the papers, and their readers dry, hoping that we’ll continue to pay $2.50 to buy a paper with no local news, or letters to the editor. There is not enough there now to line the parakeet cage or get the wood stove started, let alone telling us what is going on in our world, country, state or community.

I cut my teeth as a writer by firing off a letter to the editor every time I read a story that left out crucial details or showed bias, intentionally, or otherwise. I knew the person in charge of the editorial page, and they knew me. I learned that my letter, in order to show up in print, had to be concise and to the point. Dead wood would be cut off by the editor, and I never trusted them to do it in a way that would leave the point I was trying to make. Writing a letter to the editor of a daily newspaper is the single most influential thing a citizen can do to effect change on our system. Now, in Eugene, it’s one more of the great privileges that has been taken away from all of us who care.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass Ben Olson photo

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