As you know, the newspaper business can be pretty brutal. The pay is lousy, the days are grinding, and the public — the very people journalists have vowed to serve — trust the media about as much as Lauren trusts Heidi. It's tough on the wallet, tough on the nerves, and tough on the liver.
And right now, it's tougher than ever, thanks to the rise of the internet, declining ad sales, and the this-quarter-next-quarter short-sightedness of many owners and board members. As a result, newspapers across the country are cutting staff, cutting pages, and cutting local content.
Which brings us to this week's announcement that Creative Loafing, the Tampa-based alternative weekly chain, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Creative Loafing empire includes alt-weeklies — the kind of paper you're holding in your hand right now — in Tampa, Atlanta, Charlotte, Sarasota, Chicago, and D.C. Management at the Loaf claims it has no intention of dismantling the chain. Instead, they are eyeing a digital future, a world where folks get their news not from a paper — or hell, even television or radio for that matter — but strictly from the internet. It's a bad idea. At least right now.
We can see the future up ahead. We know that it's coming. It's just not here yet. And right now, it appears that people are still fond of the printed page. It's just that the newspaper business has changed.
Afternoon newspapers are a thing of the past for most towns, while the number of cities that have two competing daily papers has dwindled to almost nothing.
But what is happening at the same time is the rise of niche publications — papers geared toward seniors (The Lowcountry Sun), papers targeting specific communities (West Of), papers devoted to breathlessly covering the opinions and social schedules of South of Broad blue bloods (the Charleston Mercury), and many others, including the City Paper and Skirt!, a Charleston-based women's magazine.
Skirt!, in particular, has been very successful; the publication can now be picked up in over 10 cities. They found their niche, and they ran with it.
And for a moment, it seemed that the folks at The Post and Courier were going to make a run at a similar publication with the launch of "Moxie," a new fairer sex-focused weekly section in the paper. After all, the dailies have long tried to duplicate the success of alts, launching faux weeklies in cities all over the country, like The Link in Greenville. I was wrong.
When "Moxie" debuted last week, it was not the Skirt! knock-off I had expected. It was a dull and patronizing repackaging of the one section of the P&C already devoted to "female-friendly" content — recipes, personality profiles, fashion advice, "Dear Abby." Evidently, womenfolk can't be troubled with stories about bailouts, presidential races, and never-ending wars.
There was a profile on Z93's Deja Dee, a few beauty and health tips, a book review, a wire story about women who like playing video games, and a story on the "cockiness gap" that prevents women from entering politics. (Pardon me, but doesn't "cockiness gap" sound like a euphemism for ... well ... you know.)
Maybe this week will be different. See, the P&C has asked readers to write in and tell the paper what they think of "Moxie" and how it can be improved. Here are my suggestions for how the folks at "Moxie" can show some real moxie:
One, ditch the current slate of comics and replace each one with Cathy. Doonesbury just isn't funny, and Blondie is sexist.
Two, mention Sarah Palin as often as possible. Tina Fey will also suffice. Bonus points for mentioning eyewear.
Three, have a weekly Page 3 guy. Think about the models in the International Male catalog but in khaki thongs and boat shoes. Add a pair of sunglasses and Croakies to make it even hotter.
Four, continue to use dirty-minded euphemisms like "cockiness gap." May I suggest, "dance the married man's cotillion" and "keep the census down."