Thoughts on cancelling a newspaper subscription, part 2

When we ended our subscription to the Wisconsin State Journal, we did it because, finally, we just had to. On principle.

Why, oh why, didn’t we cancel (as many did) when they re-endorsed George W. Bush for President? That is a mystery. And a moral failure. Now when we die, we shall not be allowed into heaven.

Later, when we finally did cancel, it was painless:

  • Obviously, it’s online!  We can read their top stories for free. And if we forget — and actually we do — then how necessary was it?
  • We have a great neighbor who has always ‘taken the paper’ (That’s an old manner of speech; it’s not like “taking a beating”.) even though she freely admits to hating the editorials and “especially that Chris Rickert!” as she hurries off to live life. She’s happy to pass along her old, barely-perused newspapers. She has no idea we use ’em to photograph headlines for our “blog”, whatever that might be.
  • The New York Times! Delivered with absolute reliability at 5 AM. Smaller than it used to be, sometimes exasperating, but still essential. It’s almost impossible to finish… there’s never enough time. We could read most of the State Journal while making toast.
  • Finally, the dog. Apparently she doesn’t know or care WHAT’s inside the plastic sleeve. She’ll fetch a year-old copy of anything as long as it’s got a plastic sleeve. She just wants to kill it, and carry it in.  For her, The Capital Times is still in print and delivered daily.

Thoughts on cancelling your newspaper subscription, part 1

Writing from Milwaukee, xoff was ticked at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s endorsement of Scott Walker. Xoff, himself a former newspaperman, said :

I’d cancel our subscription if I could, but we already did that five years ago, and have never regretted it.

We did the same here in Madison, 2-3 years ago, not renewing our long-time subscription to the Wisconsin State Journal. It was a disappointment to the dog who had always loved fetching both local papers as well as the New York Times.

It wasn’t easy for us people either. If you love the idea of a smart person asking questions and telling you what they’ve learned, then it’s no easy thing to cancel a newspaper subscription. And if you know that professional journalists need to get paid, you feel bad about withdrawing your support. But it became too frustrating. For us it was the editorial page, exasperating, in both what was there and not there. It felt like subscribing to a service that would both mow the lawn and then vandalize something on the way out.

Getting the local news kept us subscribing despite the editorial stance, so our previous post is pertinent. How does a strikingly misleading analysis like Sunday’s “Level Playing Field?” get to appear over the byline of a respected reporter? The analysis uses an incomplete set of records (i.e., only reported contributions), actually acknowledges the incompleteness, and still moves on to a conclusion. It doesn’t seem up to Dee Hall’s reporting standards. Is it just happenstance that the conclusion is exactly the one the paper’s editorial board would hope for prior to a Very Big election? Is it important that the publisher and top news editor oversee both news and editorial page opinion? It looks bad.

For many subscribers it’s possible to sort of ignore/bypass/forgive the editorials, because the news reporting — on balance, in their view — is valuable enough to justify paying that bill again. You might say there’s enough honey on the front page to ignore that “honey wagon”.on the editorial page. But goodwill can be lost in a hurry if they screw up the news pages, too.