Greenville News seeks bugle player with “Taps” experience

Classified ad to appear soon in Greenville News: Local newspaper seeks Upstate bugle player, preferably single and good looking, with experience in playing “Taps.” Musician must be able to work pro bono or be willing to pay $9.99 per month for online news subscription. Apply in person (our phones got cut off last month) at Greenville News HQ, or simply audition in front of our building. Candidates who bring a functional online business model will receive preference.

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A few weeks back, I got a little snarky on Twitter with my local paper, The Greenville News, for running Lindsay Lohan news in its most prominent online real estate. I suggested the paper might not be losing readers if it focused more on local news instead of the world-critical updates about Lohan’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation. The paper snarked right back at me. Its direct message to my Twitter inbox read, “Actually, our online readership is increasing. But we appreciate the input.”

Chastened, I sat back and thought, “Well, maybe this is the price I have to pay for online content. I’m forced to look at slideshows of street festivals and sad updates on Sandra Bullock’s marriage alongside what I consider to be real news. Maybe this is what the paper has to do to keep its online content free. Maybe I should feel bad.”

Well, no. Apparently that doesn’t work either.

The reality began today with the note from Metromix–the local scenester periodical that makes its bucks off bar reviews and party pics–that it would not, as its parent company, be charging for content. This note hit Twitter about half an hour before The Greenville News (a company that has so misunderstood social media that it might have actually benefitted from the “Twitter for Dummies” book) posted the Twitter link to its own story.

The Greenville News will now start charging for online content. If you want access to the website, beginning July 1 you will have to pay a minimum of $9.95.

The News is not a bad paper. It has some good writers and editors (although I really miss its writing staff from ten years ago, which was much better). There are other papers with good writers, too. Like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Springfield News-Leader…papers that let me read a majority, if not all, of the content for free. That is, it’s free to me, and out of the pocket of the advertisers who are afforded the right to plaster their product in the middle of the story I’m reading.

I am a voracious news consumer. I have no way of telling how many news stories or papers I read in a given day. I’m a former news guy. There are few people I know who want to see a newspaper succeed as much as I want it to.

I can’t conceive of a day I would pay for online news content. It could happen, of course, but it wil be a day when the writing is the best I’ve seen, the investigations are ground-breaking, and the photography involves more than a picture of couple of drunk soccer moms drinking beer at Downtown Alive. lt will not be a day when my local paper has cut its writing staff down to bare bones, can’t afford to pay most of its writers a living wage, or forces me to look at Britney Spears news above the fold. Simply put, if you’re running a newspaper that has a relative monopoly in an area of half a million people and you can’t afford to copy and paste your paper to a website, you’re doing it wrong.

I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the announcement on the newspaper’s website.

A paper that wants me to believe it is good enough to pay $120 a year to access its website…a newspaper that congratulates itself on its top-notch writing…a paper that holds itself up as the pinnacle of local journalism…is the same paper that buries the lead…by nine paragraphs.

Well done, Greenville News. I’ll miss you.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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6 Responses

  1. John B says:

    I was there 10 years ago, so I will take the note on reporters then as a compliment.

  2. otis says:

    You, John, were the top of my list from a decade ago, so feel free to accept the compliment.

  3. lusky says:

    What about the even more egregious cut and paste job they now do for page two ? USA Today is a fine newspaper but really? Copy them into our local newspaper ? Are you kidding? Newspapers, in my naive mind, always had the local slant and cynicism necessary to allow their communities to understand, or at least reconcile with, the rest of the world. Obviously most items are published by UPI, Reuters or AP, but at least if it were in the Greenville News on font, it might “seem” like it was our news. As far as charging for online “publishing”, I think it’s a pretty easy assumption that it will go over like the proverbial lead balloon. Good luck.

  4. CJ says:

    My favorite line from the announcement: “Content, regardless of the platform, was never ‘free.'”

    Um… huh?

    Content has ALWAYS been free. People have historically been charged for the way the content has been delivered.

    Content is everywhere. It’s on Twitter and Facebook. It’s in books, magazines and yes, newspapers. It’s on television and radio. Some of these cost the consumer money… others don’t.

    Newspapers will continue to become obsolete as they make decisions like this. There was once a perception that newspapers provided better content then television news. Even if it was true at one time… and I’m not conceding that ;-)… it’s hardly true now as newspapers have faced significant cutbacks.

    I hope the newspaper in Evansville makes a similar decision, too. We’ll never start charging for our access, either on TV or online. That’s what we’ve got advertisers for!

  5. squeaky wheel says:

    Wow, that’s really special.

  6. Jennifer McKelvey says:

    I am a little bit late responding to this, but I literally laughed out loud when I saw that I had to pay to read their website. Like you, I will be reading the local and national news elsewhere.

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