NEWSPAPERS ARE DYING.
We know they are. And this is hard for me to say, because that's how I make my living.
I delivered the newspaper I now work for as a kid; today, 35-40 or so years later, I work for that same newspaper as a sports editor/writer. So I've come full circle, in a way.
This newspaper was a staple in my household growing up and now, of course, it's a staple of what I do in a much different manner. Either way, this newspaper is part of my fabric.
But in its current form, this and other newspapers are getting old and decrepit in some ways. Not because they've outlived their usefulness, but because the Internet and TV are killing them.
In its current form, the standard newspaper daily is becoming a dinosaur. It isn't immediate, it can't compete with CNN or ESPN on fast news breaks, although I'd argue it's much more reliable and indepth.
But that's another post.
What I want to say here is that newspapers DO still matter. They bind together and are the voice of their local communities. Citizens care about what they read or don't read in their local newspaper every day.
Believe me, I hear about it daily in the form of complaints: how we didn't cover this, how we didn't mention little Johnny scoring four goals in a minor pee wee hockey game, how could we not be here or there...
People care. Right or wrong, there's a feeling that if you're in our paper, you've been properly honoured in our city of 750,000. If you're not, then you feel insulted or wonder why we weren't there.
If you're not asleep yet, read the story below. And understand why the title of this blog is that People Just Want To Be Heard.
We ran a feature a couple of weeks back on a local boxer/trainer who was built up by others in the boxing community as a role model for younger kids.
It was a nice feature story, a touchy-feely typical tale of a guy who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and who made it in a tough sport with a bad reputation and who has emerged as a hero.
Today, I got a call from a 29-year-old woman who claimed she was the mother of this guy's five-year-old son that he never comes to visit...and what about her story and her son's story?
She says he's making custody payments. They were never married. Apparently she was sleeping with two men, one right after the other as she transitioned out of one relationship and into the next.
And she got pregnant. She also has another son from another man she did not marry.
She said she had seen the story about this boxer guy and wanted us to write another story that took away some of this guy's sheen and spelled out what was really happening.
That he had abandoned his five-year-old son, who she says wakes up in the middle of the night wondering where this guy is and why he has no dad.
If you're me, this is the kind of call you don't want to get, but that you have to deal with, sensitively and properly. What would you have done? I've been through similar situations before.
I tried to be considerate to the woman, who was emotional and often on the verge of tears but also lucid and sensible and open to the truth. I talked to her for half an hour, at least.
This man, based on what she told me, had done nothing illegal. Unfortunately, this happens far too often.
She had gotten pregnant by him. S**t happens. He is paying financially to support the child, but that's all he wants to do. You can talk amongst yourselves about what's right and wrong here.
The fact is, she's left with a five-year-old son who has no father who's present. The father is paying child support. She's left -- and the child is left -- with what they're left with.
She doesn't like that we painted this guy as Mr. Squeaky Clean. But we didn't. We told the story of him and boxing. We didn't know about (I assume) and didn't report the story of him and this child.
I gave her the name of our social affairs columnist. I suggested she consider writing a letter to the editor to put her side of it on the record. But we could not write a story now saying what an asshole this guy was.
Not without delving a lot more into her own history and making the story balanced and fair. And I suggested while it was up to her, that could end up harming her more than helping her and her son.
In the end, after a lot of sobs and just spilling her guts about how she felt this was so unfair, she said she probably wouldn't take it any further. She understood. She would deal with it on her own, she said.
I said to her that was her decision that she had to make alone, not with my help. But I did suggest to her, off the record and not as part of my position at the paper, that maybe she needed to face the facts.
This guy doesn't want to be a part of her life or the five-year-old's. That's crushing and sad, but true, based on what she told me. It just about killed me saying that to her.
She agreed and thanked me and said she might call again.