Thursday, January 29, 2009

Newsroom Cuts, and Bagels Too

My local daily newspaper announced cuts, including five jobs out of a newsroom that could use 15 more people to adequately cover the University of Georgia, Athens, and its surrounding counties. Just another sign of the financial times, and yet I wonder about all the stories that will be missed out there -- the misdeeds of politicians and cronies, the businesses getting away with murder, and I suppose murder itself.

What we'll know about our community has been significantly harmed, all to service debt and feed the profit margin beast.

The paper will get slimmer, the price will probably go up, and the brainiacs and bean counters will wonder why circulation continues to drop. It's like McDonald's serving burgers cold and wondering why people stopped buying them.

Even my favorite local bagel place is closing at the end of the week. I plan on having lunch there today to see it off.

Why are the two related?

Simple. Zim's was a kind of community meeting place. If you visited in the mornings you'd see groups of people who often gather there to drink coffee, nibble a bagel, and share their lives with one another. Sorority girls, retirees, journalism professors who blog too much, you'd see them and a host of others at the cool custom-designed tables, chatting and eating and creating one of those "third places" where people visit and connect.

A good newspaper is kinda like that, or used to be. In some ways the Internet has blown up geographic communities and replaced them with communities of shared interests regardless of where one lives. That's good, and that's bad. We need both kinds of communities, but interest in news is hurting, at least the traditional way we provide news, and I'm not all that convinced that a sense of geographic community isn't also disappearing.

Today, I'm reading the Athens Banner-Herald in paper form. And I'm eating a bagel at Zim's.

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