hard times for newspapers

For those of you who are old enough, perhaps you remember the Judy Collins song from the 1970s, “Hard Times for Lovers,” and the album of the same title with that enticing nude photo of Judy on the album cover.

These days it’s hard times for newspapers.

When I was a youngster I had a paper route. I delivered The Daily Enterprise which was a morning newspaper out of Riverside. The Press was the afternoon newspaper that focused on the city of Riverside. The Daily Enterprise covered the rest of Riverside County. The combined Sunday paper was The Press-Enterprise. The paper did a good job of covering local news and treated its delivery boys (and in those days it was just boys) well. I made decent money and learned how to be responsible: I had to collect from my subscribers and then pay my bill at the end of the month.

Press Enterprise mastheadToday it’s all motor routes and the same guy that delivers The Press-Enterprise (just one paper now) also delivers the Los Angeles Times. The Press-Enterprise is owned by the Southern California News group which also owns newspapers in Pomona, Ontario, and San Bernardino along with the Orange County Register. The coverage area is greatly expanded and local news is correspondingly diminished.

When the Dodgers headed to the World Series the local news on TV showed the front page of the Orange County Register. It was the exact same front page we had in The Press Enterprise.

But that’s the reality of today’s newspaper biz.


the decline of the alternative news weekly

The Los Angeles Times recently paid a lot of attention to the sale of the alternative news weekly LA Weekly. It turns out that the sale was to a group of Orange County investors with a record of making donations to Republican candidates.

Why do I care?

I have a long history with alternative news weeklies. During my Claremont cockroach years of the mid 1970s I could walk across Arrow Highway from my Olive Street apartment and find the Village Voice at the newsstand in the strip mall there.

When I was in central Oklahoma I was classified advertising manager and later business manager at the community newspaper in Moore, Oklahoma. When that paper changed hands I responded (right as I was getting laid off) to an ad in Oklahoma City’s alternative news weekly, the Oklahoma Gazette, for a classified advertising manager. I got the job.

LA Weekly logoWhen my late first wife Ruth and I made plans, for a variety of reasons, to move to the San Francisco Bay Area, I saw a notice in a publication that covered the alternative news weekly scene. It said a new alternative news weekly was starting up in San Jose. This was 1985, so it was snail mail and long distance phone calls, but the publisher, David Cohen (who came from the LA Weekly), hired me sight unseen as San Jose Metro‘s first classified advertising manager.

I mostly hated the environment while at the same time was happy to be part of an alternative news weekly.

So what, exactly, is an alternative news weekly? Mark Oppenheimer had a great discussion in the LA Times about this, partially in the context of the LA Weekly sale. In short he says it’s free + local politics + local arts. Exactly right.

The sale of the LA Weekly means, in all probability, one less such outlet.

That’ sad.


grocery checkers then and now

Since the death of Charles Schultz in 2000 we have had reruns of the Peanuts comic strip in our newspapers. Unlike comic strips such as Dennis the Menace, Schultz and his family were insistent that no else ever draw a Peanuts comic strip. So some of the strips we see today are pretty much timeless, while others are dated.

Alpha Beta signA recent series with Snoopy as the world famous grocery clerk caught my attention. Snoopy’s body language perfectly caught the way grocery checkers worked when I was a box boy at Alpha Beta in 1970-1971. There were no scanners. Each item had a price on it. With one hand on the item and the other on the cash register these ladies worked very quickly, even adding tax to non-food items without checking the tax table. They were fast, efficient, and accurate.

Today’s checkers have it easy with the scanners, though they still must know their produce. But the grocery checkers in the days of yore are a breed we will never see again.

peanuts world famous grocery clerk cartoon


another familiar voice

I wrote a while back about how we enjoy listening to Michael Burman playing jazz on KCSM-FM on Saturday evenings.

Classical 24 logoI need to give equal time to Sunday evenings. That’s when we listen to the NPR classical service. We love hearing Valerie Kahler who hosts the six to ten time slot, Pacific Time. She is actually in the Twin Cities, so her shift takes her up to midnight central time. But her voice is a soothing presence as we get ready to start the new week, and we very much miss her when she’s away.


listening to the Dodgers

I wrote about this not long ago, but a recent column by Bill Plaschke in the Los Angeles Times caused me to compose a more complete reflection. He asked how Dodger fans who didn’t have Charter Spectrum followed the team. This is my response, lightly edited.

Bill,

Regarding your column in today’s [Thursday 24 August] paper:

When I returned to Southern California in 2015 after 41 years away my wife and I had to decide on our communications provider: Time-Warner Cable or Verizon. We chose Verizon because we had them in Santa Clara County and because TW had a reputation for awful service. We made this decision knowing full well that we would not get the Dodger games.

Dodgers yard bannerThere were times last year, Vin Scully’s last in the booth, when I momentarily regretted the decision, but then Vin was only doing home games. This year (Verizon having become Frontier and TW having become Charter Spectrum) my regrets are minimal. Seeing the game on KTLA on Tuesday [22 August] reminded me that I don’t like Joe Davis all that much, and I don’t terribly enjoy the Joe Davis – Orel Hershiser team. I would much rather listen to Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday on the radio. I also love listening to Rick doing play-by-play with Kevin Kennedy doing color.

KLAC doesn’t come in terribly well here in Hemet unless I’m in my car, but I have my MLB At Bat subscription.  My wife and I listen to jazz in the evening, but I follow the game on my iPad app, and if the Dodgers are about to pull out a victory I’ll punch up the audio and listen to Charlie call the ninth. It reminds me of listening to Dodger games on the radio with Vin Scully when I was a youngster.

When I was growing up maybe half a dozen games a year were broadcast on TV. Otherwise all we had was Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett on the radio. My family and I listened to Vin call Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on the radio on a hot evening in our living room. Nothing could have been more dramatic or exciting.

In my Bay Area years I listened to Hank Greenwald and later Jon Miller call Giants games on the radio, while I had Bill King and Lon Simmons for the A’s. With their marvelous word pictures I didn’t miss seeing the game on television at all.

Back here in SoCal I’m more than happy to listen to Charlie and Rick on the radio (even if it is via the internet). If Charlie is not making the road trip or doing television, I am content listening to Rick and Kevin. (And, by the way, Terry Smith is pretty darn good on the Angels radio broadcasts.)

Baseball is a sport very well suited to be followed on the radio. I don’t need TV to enjoy the game.

Mike Christie
Hemet


Star Trek again

Terry and I have both long been big Star Trek fans. We watched many episodes of Next Generation together, along with Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.  We had a Star Trek-themed wedding, although it was more subtle than blatant. With the end of Enterprise we thought that might have been the end of Star Trek for us. Neither of us has been terribly impressed with the current “young Kirk” movie series starring Chris Pine (although the next movie is rumored to have a kick-ass female captain).

Star Trek DiscoveryI hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series, since it will be on the CBS All Access app. Then I made the mistake of watching the trailers. Wow. Interesting, intelligent, thought-provoking, and cerebral if those trailers are any indication. Looks like a mature Asian female captain, along with Vulcans and Klingons. Fascinating, to quote Spock.

This may be enough for us to shell out for CBS All Access. But we have to wait until September 24th.


listening to baseball

I grew up listening to baseball on the radio. Those familiar voices of Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett were an integral part of my summers. In those days we saw maybe a half dozen games on television. Certainly no more than ten or so. It was via the radio that I learned about baseball and learned to love the game.

These days Terry and I can watch the Angels on television, but our provider does not offer the channel that carries the Dodgers. (That’s a long-standing issue and sore point here in Southern California.) We don’t like to watch TV in the evenings anyway. When we are sitting with our feet up we like to listen to jazz.

I do, however, have the MLB At Bat app on both my iPhone and my iPad, and I have my iPad in front of me each evening after I have read the paper. That means that I can check the score of Dodger game at any time. If it’s getting close to the end of the game and the Dodgers are leading sometimes we’ll turn off the music and I’ll pull up the game on At Bat. We will listen to Charlie Steiner along with Rick Monday call the last couple of innings.

Just like listening to baseball on the radio.