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Off The [Local] Rag 06/14/09

The local rag ceased its daily delivery to my house last week. This would hardly seem grounds for commentary; after all, I am certainly not the first person to discontinue a subscription to his local paper.
What makes it perhaps a bit unusual is that I had canceled my subscription last September. They had delivered it every day without fail since.

Before reading further, you should be advised that this piece is one of ‘those’ that has nothing whatsoever to do with Tech sports or those of anybody else. I am aware that there are regular readers who are only interested in my thoughts on the Hokies. For purposes of saving time, both in reading and sending me the ‘who cares’ e-mails, now would be a very good time for them to quit reading.

poorserviceThis impressive level of delivery service had differed sharply from that which I had experienced in the previous six months or so. As near as I had been able to determine, the circulation department of the local rag had adopted a policy of delivering their product only on even-numbered days, except when that conflicted with their overriding ‘Never on Sunday’ philosophy. It factored largely in my decision to cancel my subscription. Had I known that telling them to not deliver the paper would cause them to deliver the paper on a much more frequent basis than they had when I was actually paying for the darn thing I would have canceled months before I did.

There were also other reasons reasons I had finally pulled the plug on my subscription. They included the fact that the low quality of its circulation had been matched by the news department. It was no longer worth the ever-increasing prices they were charging.

This stemmed not only from the sea changes that have the entire industry in its death throes, but from management decisions made a decade or so ago. That would be when Media General bought the local paper from the family that had controlled it for a very long time and brought to town to oversee their latest acquisition a new publisher. While there were cracks already developing in the business model that had existed since Gutenberg, this gentleman put his pedal to the metal and accelerated its descent straight into the ground.train-wreck

Upon his arrival, the Danville Register and Bee went seemingly overnight from being the fearsome watchdog of local government for which it had been widely renowned to that same government’s cheerleader. Both the editorial and news pages were soon brimming with odes of praise and absolute fawning over our local masters. Any shred of journalistic integrity went sailing out the building’s windows.

The paper also adopted the habit of using its pages, both editorial and news, to engage in the character assassination of anyone who expressed any disagreement with both their beloved government or the paper’s venturing into territory occupied by the New York Times and Pravda. Eventually, that included me.

At the time, I was amusing myself by pointing out some of the more inefficient, tax-wasting and ridiculous goings-on among city officials both elected and appointed. It tended to be a time-consuming hobby.

pizza-peteThere was and still is a city councilman in office, a dim bulb whose lack of intellectual wattage is matched only by his expanse of skin stretched to breaking as it struggles to contain both his ego and his inflated sense of self-importance. He is the Seth Greenberg of Danville’s City Council.

There had been a time when the city council had voted to impose a food tax on meals served and sold by local restaurants. This clown had looked directly into the cameras of the local cable system that televised the meetings and given the citizenry his ‘solemn pledge’ that the tax would ‘never be raised.’

A couple of years later when he voted to raise it, the boob declared that people would easily be able to afford the higher tax by simply ‘not eating so much pizza.’ Although the deity is aware that there are huge numbers of contenders among councilpersons past and present, this has to rank as the dumbest comment ever uttered by a local elected official.

I immediately begin referring to him as ‘Pizza Pete.’ It caught on and was soon in wide use around town. This brought me into the sights of the great defender of local government, the local rag. I was attacked in print by both the editorial writer and, in a particularly-vicious harangue that descended to a very personal level, by the publisher.

The latter didn’t take it too well when I elected not to cower in the face of his obvious superiority but instead began referring to him as ‘Bitchin’ Bob.’ He was so incensed at this moniker that he sought me out one Friday afternoon in a local watering hole where I was known to spend time.

He informed me that he was a very important man in both his community and corporation, of such a high quality that he simply would not accept being called ‘Bitchin’ Bob.’ He ordered me to immediately cease and desist.

I accepted Bitchin’ Bob’s bitching with good humor, smiling all the while. Noticing that a good portion of the first drink I had bought him had ended up on my face after having been RF4467374spewed from his mouth during his diatribe, I graciously offered to buy him another. This seemed to make him madder, causing his already high level of anger to increase. I was impressed. Until then, I had only been able to generate such rage in wives shortly before they divorced me. I was branching out.

I eventually noticed that Bitchin’ Bob’s increasing anger and inability to maintain low tones was causing his face to redden to an alarming hue. I began to worry that he might drop dead of a coronary. The manager of the watering hole was a friend of mine and I was concerned that when word got out that people were dropping dead of heart attacks in his establishment it might negatively impact his business [naturally, the paper would have neglected to include the circumstances in its coverage]. I advised Bitchin’ Bob that he might want to calm down just a bit for reasons of his health. He stomped out in a huff.

I was never mentioned in the local rag again, even when I depicted Bitchin’ Bob naked on his hands and knees offering up the dominating piece of his anatomy to be used as target practice for a useless city manager [bonus points for remembering Jer and his pretend jobs] to work on his short game.

Bitchin’ Bob died a while back. I did not attend his funeral. The disaster of a paper he left behind will outlive him, but not by much. Its survival might actually be extended by a few days as they save money by not giving me a free copy. After all we have been through together, they have cut me off.


  1. JDanWuff — June 14, 2009 #

    Until now, I thought the only other person of low character I associated with was BobLee. Thanks for lifting the veil and revealing your dark side.
    You’re probably a bitter clinger,too.
    Go Wolfpack (and Hokies)……….


    Jim Reply:

    For a long time I thought I was the only person who did what I did. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered there was another barely 80 miles away in the RTP. ACC expansion might have failed in its mission of improving conference football, but there was a side benefit: It enabled me to meet and become friends with the great BobLee.

    You guys in the ken of the good old N&O also know a thing or two about dying newspapers.


  2. Mike Berryman — June 14, 2009 #

    You are the best.
    MG has the Richmond Times Dispatch on the same track as the Danville paper. They were more efficient in cutting off my delivery after the inevitable cancellation.
    Have as great week.



  3. John — June 14, 2009 #

    Having parrots as pets, we have a regular need to replace the cage and stand liners (Cory’s job actually, heh) and this need used to correspond quite well with the The Roanoke Slimes special offer of 16 weeks delivered for around 30 bucks, that usually arrived just before football season. We took great advantage of this for a number of years, always managing to get a few extra weeks before they caught on that we’d let the “trial offer” lapse without further payment. One day they actually called to discuss with me just exactly why I didn’t enjoy their paper in my house “year ’round?” In a rare moment of candor, I allowed that their hard left turn on the Editorial Page after they were acquired decades ago by that Norfolk outfit had rendered the quality of their rag suitable only for that purpose to which I had consigned it, and that four months out of the year was providing an adequate supply to that end. The free offers have mysteriously ceased.


  4. snakeman40 — June 14, 2009 #


    Like a breathe of old air (notice I didn’t say “stale”), it was good to get a whiff of the OLD A-line! How I miss the musings and goings-on in the great city of Danville you used to pontificate on. That was always good reading; funny, topical, and most of all, truthful. I figured by the headline that the R&B finally gave up the ghost and was no more. Even though they evidently are still publishing, I thought of them as “no more” years before I even left the Big D.
    P.S.- It took 3 tries, but I finally got through your spam filter…..


    Jim Reply:

    Since council recently voted to again raise the ‘tax that would never be raised’ [wanna guess how Pizza Pete voted?], I might go back.

    The digital edition of the local rag today is continuing to sensationalize the police department’s stern method of enforcing leash laws.


  5. Chip — June 14, 2009 #

    Reminded me of several reasons why I get the Washington Post on Sundays only. Several times a year they offer to give me a daily subscription of 6 months for free, but I just say NO! Will have to rely on the Roanoke Rag starting next summer.

    Obviously, there are other things besides the Hokies that are worth writing about (and reading). This week, I also got a chuckle of the 72 year old bag getting zapped by the cop. As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.


  6. Greg — June 15, 2009 #

    Ah yes, the wonderful world of print media. We let our Roanoke Times subscription lapse after decades as loyal readers. When the annual price hit well over $200, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I can nearly purchase another Hokie football season ticket for the left-biased rag from Roanoke. While I do miss the local stories and local obits, I really can’t say I’ve missed that rag for one moment overall.

    I much rather prefer reading my daily news from the many websites available while surfing the net daily during my lunch hour. I eat at my desk and search the web for stories of interest to me. Much more rewarding than the spoon fed drivel penned by the followers of Lenin and Marx.

    From my perspective, the powers in the written new media have created their own hell.


    Jim Reply:

    While most newspapers are not as pitifully-inept as the local rag, there is little question they brought it on themselves.

    For the last year or so, by the time I wandered outside to retrieve the local rag, I had already read on the Net the 1-2 stories that actually dealt with LOCAL NEWS. Unlike John, I don’t keep birds and my fish monger wraps my purchases for me. I had little use for the thing.


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