Didn’t get your daily newspaper this morning? Did the absence of sports news and the continuing adventures of Dagwood and Blondie seriously affect your morning routine? Well, the folks over at the Courier-Journal’s pressroom had a little fire in the wee hours of Thursday morning that caused the papers to be delayed for more than 105,000 subscribers.
An electronic edition of the Courier was made available on the evil internet, and the publishers assure us that Friday's edition of the paper will be delivered at its normal time. Some may find this use of the electronic media a bit ironic, since the last time this happened—back in May of 2010—the C-J’s publisher Arnold Garson (now retired) had just fired off a scathing diatribe in criticism of the threat of internet journalism.
Arnie’s speech  is worth reading. He starts off with a little paraphrase of a famous quotation from Mark Twain, to the effect that the “… reports you have been hearing about the pending death of the newspaper industry are dead wrong.” He admits that newspaper circulation is continuing in its death spiral, but finds consolation in the fact that the Courier-Journal’s circulation only declined 8.4 percent from the previous year: one of the few patients on the death ward who’s disease is almost in remission.
He then gets a little snarky: “For those who think that start-up local news websites and blogs can replace newspapers, here are some things you may wish to think about: Who would perform the expensive oversight function that guards our democracy against tyranny without newspapers to fill that role?” The C-J’s circulation might be down, but its ego is in fine shape. We used to laugh at the Chicago Trib when it put on its logo: “World’s Greatest Newspaper.” Look for the C-J to start bragging: “We Guard Our Democracy Against Tyranny.”
Please. We could write a book about the state and local scandals which have escaped the notice of our once-great newspaper. But we can think of no liberty-quashing state or local power grab that didn’t command the full support of the leftists at the C-J. They were foursquare in favor of criminalizing indoor smoking, imposing juvenile curfews, and giving increased power to state social workers to take kids away from their parents. The last time we can recall the C-J striking a blow against tyranny was when the Louisville Metro Council passed a law restricting the little green plastic bags of advertisements their minions attempted—often with little success—to throw onto our front porches. If the Courier-Journal is the only thing standing between the citizens of Louisville and a police state, then God help us.
Garson demands to know: “Who would provide the authoritative, insightful and informed commentary on politics and current events?” Tragically, the hapless publisher asked his question on the very day when most of his readers were looking to their Sunday paper for stories and photos of Louisville’s biggest deal: The Kentucky Derby. And commentary came there none (except via the verdammte internet). Then Arnie gets snarky again: “Community bloggers will comment on everything and anything, but can you really gain useful insights that help shape your thinking and fuel your conversation by reading what your talky neighbor, Nick, thinks about global warming or tax increment financing?” Well, Arnie, our “talky neighbor, Nick” had a pretty good piece on the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby ready for us to read with that Sunday morning’s coffee; which we read before getting to your desultory philippic about the evils of the internet. And, as for global warming, if you really believe that your daily rip-&-reads from the NYT and WaPo, towing the leftist Henny-Penny line, will provide “useful insights” to help shape our thinking, then your cognitive dissonance has reached its zenith.
He concluded his exhortation with the boast that the C-J has 175,000 “paying customers.” Then he asks, “Think about it. How many websites do people in the Louisville area value enough to pay $250 a year for access?” Well, Arnie, we think you know the answer to that. Internet journalism has developed a new paradigm that attracts enough advertising to pay expenses, make a decent profit, and yet provide quality (and timely) information to its readers for free. Like those furry little mammals scurrying around at the end of the Jurassic Period, internet journalists are just biding their time until the great behemoths like the Courier-Journal realize that their era has passed, and collapse under their own weight.
Just how sick is Louisville’s Courier-Journal? Terry Boyd, writing at insiderlouisville.com , reports that, from 2000 to 2010, not a single Gannett paper gained or even maintained circulation. And the Courier-Journal came in at No. 49 out of 78, with its circulation decreasing 30 percent. C-J weekday circulation dropped by about 70,000 papers, to 161,268 in 2010, from 231,685 in 2000. Boyd’s advice? “Adapt or perish.”
We must confess to having a soft spot in our heart for the Courier-Journal. We have been reading it daily for more than 60 years (longer than Arnie Garson has been eating solid food), and still hold it in respectful reverence. The C-J has received 10 Pulitzer Prizes, and used to be considered one of the top 20 daily newspapers  in the nation. Since Gannett took over, the C-J has started to slip, and in now in 47th place, by circulation. We never had the pleasure of meeting old Henry Watterson; but we grew up imbued with the wisdom of such luminaries as Barry Bingham, Carol Sutton, John Ed Pearce, Hugh Haynie, Vince Crowdus, Bob Hill, Dick Kaukas, Joe Creason, Bert Emke, and Adele Brandeis. They’re all gone now, and—so long as the Arnie Garson type bean-counters continue to run the show—it appears that their likes will not be seen again. Quelle Dommage. Je suis desolee .
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions). The Arena is read by more people in Louisville than in any other city in America.