A contributor to the Nextdoor Monona website recently revealed a profound ignorance that I find troubling.
In his post (since removed), he praised the city of Monona’s redesigned website, lauded the city-owned WVMO radio station and complimented the Nextdoor site.
With these resources plus Nextdoor Monona, he concluded, Monona residents had no need to subscribe to the local newspaper, which he disparaged in colorful terms.
My reaction, as Bugs Bunny used to say, was “What a maroon!”
He completely missed the vital function of news sources such as The Herald-Independent and the Wisconsin State Journal, which is to provide independent coverage of local issues.
Trust me: Neither the city’s website nor WVMO is going to tell you when city projects go over bid or when city officials misuse their authority.
Nor is the MG School District’s $100,000-a-year PR person going to put out a press release about falling test scores or rising taxes.
And Nextdoor Monona does not send trained reporters to cover city council or school board meetings.
But that’s what this newspaper does.
Newspapers all over this country are in a world of hurt because of the internet.
Not one has figured out how to replace the ad revenue lost to online outlets like
Craigslist and Facebook.
When I first started in newspapers in 1973, the price you paid for daily delivery basically paid for the cost of delivery.
Today, subscriptions cost much more because papers are trying to make up for the loss of advertising revenue.
But rising subscription prices annoy consumers who are increasingly accustomed to getting their news for free over the internet. (Alas, such “free” news often comes from biased sources, but that’s a topic for a whole ’nother column.)
So, readership is declining, and so is newspapers’ ability to hire the staff to cover the news.
None of this bodes well for our democracy, because voters will be making more and more decisions based on fewer and fewer facts.
Thomas Jefferson famously observed: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
But he also said the American people should receive “full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers,” adding “every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
In other words, staying informed is every citizen’s responsibility.
I am ashamed to admit my own children have abrogated their duty in regard to newspaper readership. So, this year for Christmas, I will be giving my son a subscription to the Seattle Times, my daughter one to the Austin Statesman-American, and my niece (who was a journalism major, for heaven’s sake) one to the Indianapolis Star.
Just doing my part to ensure an educated electorate.
Speaking of Christmas gifts, Monona’s most excellent dog groomer, Kathy Weber, has written a book titled “There’s Got To Be A Full Moon.”
It’s a humorous, thinly fictionalized account of her half-century grooming the dogs of Monona. If you’ve ever taken your dog to Weber’s Clip Joint, you might recognize yourself in its pages.
It would be a great gift for any local dog lovers on your list. Get it from Amazon for $14.95 in paperback, or $9.95 for the Kindle edition.
You know what I want for Christmas? Contested races in next year’s local elections.
Three Monona City Council members are up for re-election: Andrew Kitslaar, Molly Grupe and Jennifer Kuhr.
The job pays $4,800 a year. Alders are expected to attend two council meetings most months and serve on at least three committees. Terms are two years long.
Three Monona Grove School Board members are also up for re-election: Dean Bowles, Susan Fox and Loreen Gage, who was appointed to the board in September after the death of board member Jeff Simpson.
School board pays $3,100. Members are expected to attend monthly meetings and are not required to serve on other committees unless they want to.
There are two three-year terms and one one-year term available. The top two vote-getters will get the three-year terms, the person coming in third will get the one-year term.
Packets with details about the election are available now at City Hall and the MGSD administration office.
You can collect signatures on nominating papers (at least 50 for city council; 20 for school board) beginning Monday. They must be turned in by Jan. 7, 2020.
C’mon people: Fresh ideas are good for democracy!
Got something Sunny Schubert should know? Call her at 222-1604 or e-mail email@example.com.