Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bye Bye Beacon

Our subscription to the Akron Beacon Journal expires in June and we are not going to renew it. This will not throw the Beacon into bankruptcy, although the status of the former Knight Ridder newspaper is up in the air at present because nobody seems to want to buy it. Someone will, of course, there's no doubt about that. But when I worked for the Ashtabula Star-Beacon 36 years ago the publisher, Mr. Rowley, wanted to see every subscription cancellation because each was important. Recalling that, I believe I should spell out why a man who spent much of his life in the business no longer wants a newspaper on his doorstep every morning.
Some of the blame can be placed squarely on that scapegoat for nearly everything, the Internet. The real culprit, though, is the Beacon itself. It once was a great newspaper back in the days of John Knight and a couple of extraordinary newsmen named Ben Maidenburg and Jim Schlemmer. I'll admit to having been a little upset, however, on the day in 1938 when the Beacon Journal bought out the Times-Press, a Scripps Howard paper, and became the only sports page in town for a kid to read. The Times-Press had done a much better job of covering high school sports, the subject that interested me the most both then and now when turning to the sports section.
But after the previously named trio retired the Beacon started a long downhill slide. In my opinion, and I know I am not alone in feeling this way, it has now hit rock bottom. It has fewer pages than the Muncie StarPress, where I once spent 20 years, although Muncie is far smaller than Akron. There isn't as much world and national news as I would like and on Saturday there isn't an editorial page. Recently the Beacon began including the TV tabloid in the Sunday paper only if a subscriber requested it. We did, but only two weeks went by before we failed to receive one.
At the top of my hate list, though, is finding a photo of LeBron James on page 1 far to often. If it isn't LeBron it's some other Cleveland professional athlete or an Olympian. Those photos usually take up more space than the story detailing the latest happenings in Iraq. A few days ago the ultimate in this nonsense came when the entire front page was a photo of LeBron under a banner headline proclaiming: ON TO DETROIT. Turning that page revealed what would ordinarily be page 1.
The Beacon's obsession with professional sports in Cleveland is mind-boggling. The high school sports coverage is pathetic at best. When a weekly newspaper - and not a very good one - in Cuyahoga Falls scoops the Beacon Journal by three days on the naming of a new football coach at Falls High something is radically wrong at the Beacon. Cuyahoga Falls is a city of 50,000 and deserves better than it gets from the Beacon Journal.
Some of the local stories in the Beacon Journal are ones I have seen the previous night, and far too frequently two nights earlier, on the TV news. On occasion a story of interest doesn't even make it into the paper.
So where does the Internet come in? I receive an e-mail news digest every morning from the Washington Post and the Irish Times. After looking those over I check out the regular edition of the Post, The New York Times and USAToday, then take a quick look at the aforementioned Muncie paper. After that I hop across the pond and look at the Irish Independent and then go north of the border to the Belfast Telegraph. From there it's a quick jump over the Irish Sea for a peek at the London Independent, an excellent paper, and then on to Paris for the International Herald-Tribune before heading north again to see what's new in the Belgium Post. After all that I sometimes take a look at the Columbus Dispatch or some other newspaper that might contain a story of interest. All this in half an hour unless it is a day heavy with breaking news. There is a web site that opens the door to 10,000 newspapers around the country and around the world. To a 20th century guy living in the 21st century that is downright amazing.
Sure, I'll still take a look at the Beacon's online edition to check the obits and see if there is something of interest in the local news. What will I miss in the Beacon? I was going to say nothing, then I remembered the Sunday column by public editor Mike Needs. I enjoy that, but I can read it online too.
But what about those times when it's nice to have a newspaper in your hands? No longer will I fill up a pipe, have a cup of Irish breakfast tea beside me and lean back with the Beacon, but there are always issues of the Muncie StarPress around even if they are a few days old. And if the urge to have a current paper in my hands ever hits me I can walk half a block to the neighborhood convenience store. No, I'm not going to feel deprived of an old pleasure, not at all. Posted by Picasa

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