Gloating? Not us
You might think we would be gloating this week over the Hillsboro Free Press’s announcement that it no longer will be sent to anywhere near every mailbox in the county.
The latest places to be cut off from getting the Free Press for free in the mail will be Burns, Florence, Lincolnville, and Peabody — the third, fifth, sixth, and seventh largest cities in the county (and some of our favorite places for gathering news).
Despite what some might think, we’ve never had problems with any of the various people who have owned or worked at the Free Press. To be honest, we rarely see them. The only Free Press employee we ever encounter at meetings and events we cover is a part-timer who has for the most part retired.
We do, however, have problems with the concept of a free newspaper — one that out of financial self-interest must put the wants and needs of advertisers who pay for it ahead of the wants and needs of readers who do not.
Whether it’s the Hillsboro Free Press or any of a host of other free publication that sprang up in cookie-cutter fashion a couple of decades ago and now tend to be going away, the formula is pretty much the same.
Don’t do much real reporting. Don’t try to uncover hidden stories. Just take what’s handed to you, do a few frothy features, fill up with ads and canned columns that have nothing to do with actual local issues, and for goodness sake never make waves.
For better or worse, that’s not us. It’s not that we like having a handful of public officials, deadbeats, and scofflaws regarding us as the reincarnation of Osama Bin Laden. It’s just we don’t know how to portray everything as sweetness and light. The world isn’t filled with angels, and our mission in large part is to do enough digging to keep everyone fully informed about problems as well as solutions.
We think that makes us a bargain at $39.95 a year — a heck of a lot less than the $53.75 the not-so-Free Press wants to start charging readers in Burns, Florence, Lincolnville, and Peabody for a product with less actual news produced by fewer journalists.
The big thing we’ve been concerned about is how regular access to free, soft news fools readers into believing they have learned all they need to know to function in our democracy. That, not financial reasons, is why we always have opposed free newspapers.
We hope you, our regular readers, will help convince those led astray in Burns, Florence, Lincolnville, and Peabody — along with the rest of the county.
Find a friend or neighbor who thinks the Free Press is all he or she needs and give them a chance to see for themselves what they and their community have been missing.
The form at the bottom of this page offers a free 12-week subscription — enough time to try us out. Encourage those who thought the Free Press was enough to see whether our $39.99 subscription will be more valuable to them than the $53.75 subscription to Free Press is offering to those who have been cut off.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified Aug. 14, 2019