If you showed up for work a third of the time you were supposed to, how long do you think you would keep your job?
That's the issue I've had trying to get my Sacramento Bee delivered for several years now. It arrives, maybe, one out of three days. I understand there can be problems trying to deliver the paper (I've written about this before). When I first called to see why our paper hadn't been delivered Friday, I was given the same cue card talking points I've been given every time I call customer service. I was also assured a paper would be delivered ( the reason it was delayed Friday, I was told, was a printing press issue. Deliveries were three hours behind schedule. OK, stuff happens, I get that).
When I called again, at 1pm, I was told the same thing (almost verbatim). I told the person on the other end of the phone there was no way someone was going to come out this late in the day and deliver a single newspaper, so why not just be truthful and tell me I'm not going to get it? Nope, I was assured I was going to have that paper delivered shortly. "You say this every single time I call," I told the customer service rep. "Why don't you just be honest and tell me I'm not going to get it. You assured me I'd get my paper last weekend, and it never arrived. You told me someone was going to call, and this problem was going to be taken care of. It wasn't, and nobody followed up."
I've had that conversation time and time again with people who seem to read off the above mentioned customer complaint script, and talk at me, and not to me. Whatever I say, I seem to get a version of the same answer. Then I'm told I can access the paper on line. I spend ten or twelve hours a day in front of a computer screen...I want a real paper in my hands. It's why I get up earlier than I should on the weekend. I enjoy the quiet of the morning, a cup of tea, and spending a few leisurely minutes browsing through what's now becoming an increasingly less relevant or enjoyable pass time before the day starts.
It pains me to write about all this. You see, I've always loved print. As a kid, I'd read the paper with my dad in the afternoon, and learned about the world. The newspaper taught me new words, and took me to new places. Years later, I was editor of my high school newspaper. I've also been privileged to be a part of a working print newsroom during my time in this business, and respect the hard work these journalists do and their tight deadlines. I will always prefer ink and paper over reading the same news on a computer screen.
However, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself "Am I getting what I'm paying for?" When you realize you aren't, and an industry that continues to see declining readership doesn't reach out to help keep you as a customer, then it's time to say goodbye.
This will probably be one of the hardest breakups I've had to go through. In every city I've lived, I've been a subscriber to (or bought) the local newspaper. Now though, it's time to say goodbye to The Sacramento Bee.
As Paul Starr with the New Republic once wrote, "Although daily journalism may be losing its economic foundation, it has not lost its justification." True, it just lost one more customer.