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.
This 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.
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.
There 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 spewed 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.