I have heard many reasons given for the decline of newspapers in today's society.
Some say it is because newspapers have been supplanted by new media. Why should someone have to wait until the next morning to find out what is happening when that information is available on a desktop computer, a laptop, or even on your phone?
I read one story that said people are abandoning newspapers because of the newspapers' liberal agenda.
Sorry, that one doesn't even come close. Most newspapers do not have any kind of agenda. They are flailing in the wind.
Newspapers started the glacial process of committing suicide when they forgot about news, at least the kind of news that serves their communities.
I am not privy to the decision-making process at Community Newspapers Holding, the concern that operates the Globe and numerous other daily newspapers, but I am sure that someone at the top of the ladder decided the company could milk a few more dollars out of Joplin residents by forcing them to subscribe to the newspaper or its e-edition in order to have access to full obituaries.
The precedent had already been set when the Globe (or its corporate masters) decided that obituaries, birthdays, wedding announcements, engagements, and anniversaries were not news. Somewhere along the line someone forgot to tell the Globe that it is not the New York Times or the Washington Post.
Joplin is not a metropolitan community.
I have read the Joplin Globe for more than four decades. It was always in my home as I was growing up. Even during the times when we could not afford the daily newspaper, we always subscribed to the Sunday edition and looked forward to it each week.
The front page was almost always filled with actual news and I devoured every story. Now, it is a newspaper that appears to be edited by focus groups. How else can you explain a Sunday Joplin Globe where most of page one is dominated by the anniversary of Title IX? Undeniably, Title IX has made a huge difference in bringing equality to women in sports. It would be worthy of a column in the sports section and perhaps an AP story with a local sidebar on an inside page, but what kind of message is that sending to the readership when that is the best you can come up with for the showcase page of your Sunday edition?
If it's not Title IX, it is some other trend. Apparently, it is not worth putting in the pages of the Joplin Globe unless it is trending on Twitter.
The pages of weddings, deaths, anniversaries, engagements, and complete obituaries that used to make the Sunday paper a highly anticipated weekly event are a thing of the past. The Globe has written off a large portion of its potential readership with the attitude that if you don't have the money, you don't belong on our pages.
I remember the furor over the Globe's decision to begin charging for obituaries back in the 1990s. The newspaper took the heat and before too long people stopped complaining.
I received about a dozen e-mails over the past couple of weeks complaining about the Globe's new policy of not printing obituaries or even death notices with the time and location of the funeral on its website. People asked me, "What can we do?"
Sadly, the answer is nothing. That decision, no matter what anyone tells you at the Globe, is made far outside of Joplin, by people who are so desperate to come up with new sources of revenue that they can't even see the long-term damage they are doing to their product.
The death of newspapers came when companies bought hundreds of them and changed them into cookie-cutter copies of each other, deciding that the same thing that works in Alabama will work in Missouri or Texas.
It doesn't. The beauty of a strong community newspaper is that it serves its community and no two communities are alike.
The need for a newspaper (whether it is in print or electronic format) is as great as it has ever been. But don't expect people to support a newspaper just because it is important that newspapers survive. If the Joplin Globe and other newspapers across this country want to continue well into the 21st Century, they need to reexamine the product they are delivering and remember the true meaning of community.