Thursday, October 13, 2016
Readers, you should not have to pay for obituaries or wedding announcements
Turner Report/Inside Joplin/Inside Joplin Obituaries
Brenda Schmid's powerful Facebook post, which she was kind enough to allow me to reprint last week drew a considerable amount of reaction from readers, who are upset with the amount of money the Joplin Globe and other newspapers charge for obituaries.
When the Globe first began charging about two decades ago, if I recall, I was editor of the Carthage Press and wrote about how wrong it was to take advantage of grieving families. Nothing has happened that has changed my thinking.
At one time, small town newspapers had a grasp of what was important in the community and made every effort to reflect their communities. Your name was in the paper when you were born, engaged, married, died, and in many cases, was even included on birthday lists. In those days, before HPAA, you even had listings of who had checked into local hospitals and who had been released. Some newspapers printed utility hookups and Welcome Wagon type lists so people would know who was new in town.
In those days, the newspaper was a must read. The pages included arrests, police and sheriff's department incident reports and people pored over every inch of every paper to see what their neighbors had been up to.
School news was important and the newspaper's pages were lined with bulletin board photos of officers of organizations, students who were moving from kindergarten to first grade, award-winners of all kinds, and homecoming and prom royalty candidates.
The annual festivals were covered in depth and all county fair winners were listed. The changes began when people who had never had any connection with the newspaper business noticed that many newspapers had sizable profit margins and began buying them up by the dozens, often paying far more than they were worth, then recouping their losses and moving back into the black and even increasing the previously high profit margins by consolidating operations, cutting staff, eliminating some of the time-intensive news coverage, and finding ways to charge for many of the things that had always been considered news.
The most egregious example of this was the decision to charge for obituaries, but it was not limited to obituaries. Soon, you had to pay for birth notices, wedding announcements, engagements, and anniversaries. Records page material was trimmed and in some cases almost totally eliminated because it took time to gather the information and time to type it.
I was probably lucky that my newspaper career ended when it did. It would have been embarrassing for me to work at the Press when it began charging for obituaries.
Over the past few years, I have heard many excuses for why readers have fled newspapers in droves. Some say it was the internet. It is far easier to get information online and not have to pay for it. Others blame a culture in which many people no longer consider reading to be essential.
You can make a good case for those explanations, but I tend to look at the decisions made over a period of years that turned newspapers from an essential source of daily (or weekly) information into something that was easy to cut from your budget without giving it a second thought.
With my blogs, I have attempted, to at least partially recreate the ways newspapers used to be.
With Inside Joplin, I have tried to include as much of what used to be called records page material as possible- marriage licenses, dissolutions, auto accidents, police and highway patrol arrests, as well as agendas for upcoming meetings, street closings, and any other information I come across.
The Turner Report continues to be the destination for those who are looking for information on politics, education, Joplin city and school government, and my commentary. It is also the blog that features investigative reporting and occasional attempts at humor.
Inside Joplin Obituaries, which to date has published 3,969 obituaries, offers a place where the life stories of anyone connected to the coverage area of Jasper, Newton, Barton, and McDonald counties, as well as other obituaries of interest are included. I do not charge a cent. Unfortunately, while I am still able to print life stories, in many cases, these stories have understandably been trimmed to try to save money.
For those who have a death in the family, please know that I will be happy to print whatever story you would want to tell about your loved one at no charge. That also applies to anyone whose obituary has already been published. If a family member would like to add something, I have no problem with doing that.
I also encourage you to send information and photos about your weddings, anniversaries, engagements, and birth announcements.
These will be posted on Inside Joplin and as with the obituaries, there will be no charge.
If you have pictures of news, school events, sports activities, etc., please send them along.
Again, there will be no charge.
Together, we can provide the first community "newspaper" of the internet era.
Supporting the Turner Report/Inside Joplin/Inside Joplin Obituaries
While I firmly believe people should not have to pay for obituaries, weddings, engagements, and other news items, I do have to make ends meet.
While some money comes from the advertising that lines the blogs, and some from the sale of my books that I promote on these websites, just like with NPR or public television, I have to ask for voluntary contributions or subscriptions to maintain the blogs as a competitive alternative news source for the Joplin area.
As is always the case with a project like this, only a small percentage of readers are paying and that makes it difficult to keep pace with expenses.
So I ask those of you who have not contributed to give some thought to the value you place on the Turner Report, Inside Joplin, and Inside Joplin Obituaries. Am I providing information that interests you, information that you are not able to receive from other news sources? Do you value having a competitor that helps keep the Joplin Globe on its toes?
If you do, you have the option of using PayPal or a credit card at the PayPal buttons below to pay for a voluntary subscription- $30 for one year, $3 per month, or $1 per week. For those who would like to make a larger contribution or can only afford a one-time smaller amount, or would prefer to just contribute every once in a while, please use the "Donate" button.
If you would prefer not to use PayPal or a credit card, mail your subscription payment or contribution to: Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Apt. G, Joplin, MO 64801. Please make out the check to Randy Turner.
I intend to keep knocking myself out to provide the best product possible for you, no matter how much or how little money comes in, but any contributions would be much appreciated and would be put to good use.