A lot of what I write about on this blog deals with Wheeling's newspapers' right-wing Republican agenda that permeates the paper beyond the editorial page where it belongs. To that end, I often analyze and document the non-editorial page stories they choose not to carry as well as those they do. While I seldom note their ineptitude on other matters (their publishing the exact same editorial page two days in a row was an exception), their incompetence last weekend and Monday reached a point where I feel I need to comment.
"Yesterday's news tomorrow"
As I've previously argued, this should be their motto. Place it in the masthead so readers know what they are getting. On the national scene, publishing anything political that occurs on a Friday or Saturday is out of the question -- if we readers are lucky (and the news is not that critical of the President), we will see an edited AP report on Monday.
But what about local news?
If I read the National Weather Service data correctly, we officially received over an inch of rain between 6:53 PM and 7:53 PM Sunday night. (I'm sure some areas received much more.) That amount of rain in such a short period combined with the saturated ground caused by almost an inch of rain the previous day meant that flooding was likely. Flash flooding did occur and it was probably responsible for the death of at least one person.
I would have thought that there would have been some mention of the storm's effects in the Monday morning Intelligencer. There wasn't any. Okay, maybe the lateness of the storm made it too late to cover it adequately. But what about the afternoon News-Register? Unfortunately for its readership, there was not a single word about flooding anywhere in Monday's afternoon paper. Here's what was on yesterday afternoon's front page instead: Trump unveiling a new aircraft carrier, the obstacles facing the construction of a new natural gas pipeline, a bridge closure in Cameron, problems with the Veteran's budget, and a picture of the OVAC Queen of Queens. Why was there no coverage? My hunch is that the locals run a very lean (cheap?) enterprise: there was simply no one available to write the story and the AP didn't cover it so there was no story. Yes, today's papers finally covered the flooding.
And what about the rest of the paper? Sports, for example?
Saturday's sports pages featured one of the biggest events on the local sports calendar: the 72nd Annual OVAC All-Star Game to be played that evening. To that end, Saturday's sports section featured five separate articles about the upcoming game. Unfortunately, a game that started at 7:15 PM was deemed too late for coverage in Sunday's paper --a report on the game did not appear until Monday. Yes, a big game that is worthy of five preview articles apparently isn't big enough to hold the presses until 10 PM. I'm sorry, "too late" is an excuse for their cheapness -- night games are routinely covered during football season.
And if you're a Pittsburgh Pirate fan, I'm sure you've learned to look elsewhere for stories and scores. Saturday's sports section not only did not contain a single word about the Pirates (no stories, box scores or standings), it had no coverage whatsoever of major league baseball. On the plus side, Sunday's sports section did have Friday's scores and standings but no Saturday scores or up-to-date standings. Keeping to the theme of "yesterday's news tomorrow," Monday's Intelligencer had Saturday's scores (even though most of Sunday's games played were day games) and day old standing. Additionally, Monday's edition had an article about the Pirates except that it was about Saturday's game and not Sunday afternoon's game. (You would think that the Nuttings would have more than a passing interest in making sure that their Pirate information was up-to-date. Yeah, but you have to pay someone for that level of competence however low that level might be.)
And the rest is filler
As I documented a couple of weeks ago, the weekends are the worst for actual news stories that have any relevance or timeliness for local readers. The papers are often filled with articles that could have been written days or weeks earlier. This weekend was no exception. For instance, we learned about changes in the law that governs video lottery machines (it was passed months ago by the legislature), that Zion National Park may soon require reservations, and that "Valley's LGBT Churches Offer Safe Place, Redemption." (That story might have some value except that the article is talking about the Lehigh Valley not the Ohio Valley.) This is what passes for news on weekends.
It's not about journalism, it's about making money
In the last few months I've been doing some off-and-on research on Ogden Newspapers. I've found that they've recently been buying small city newspapers and then quickly laying off workers. For example, here's a week-old report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with the title "Uniontown newspaper cuts staff":
A group of workers were laid off Monday at the Uniontown Herald-Standard. Those whose jobs were cut include reporters, editors and photographers. The daily paper was purchased last month by Ogden Newspapers of Wheeling, W.Va. Ogden is a family-run publishing company whose chief executive, Robert Nutting, also owns the Pittsburgh Pirates and Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Officials at Ogden and the Herald-Standard were not available for comment.
It's all about money. Cut staff and then get the most from what's left. During the week, have reporters write articles for use on the weekends when a skeletal staff does little reporting. (Hopefully someone can learn to layout up-to-date baseball scores and standings.) At a time when newspapers face an uncertain future, Ogden is a buyer because they have a business plan: journalism on the cheap.
A month from now (August 24), the Wheeling Intelligencer celebrates a birthday. The day is usually marked by an editorial that tells us what a great job they're doing keeping us informed. Yes, in addition to being cheap, they're also hypocritical.