I had to deal with a newspaper I usually don't work with, and as I was looking at it online, I saw the column I wanted to hit hadn't been published in a few weeks, the last date it ran was in early July.
Given the state of the newspaper business today - with the layoffs and cutbacks, it's about as secure a profession as mortgage banking - I wondered if the column had been ended and the columnist laid off, so I called the paper to find out.
When the operator answered at the main number, I took a shot and asked her if she knew if this column was still running. Of course, she mumbled something about not knowing. I teased her and said, "Don't read the paper, huh?" and she said she "doesn't get to it every day." Uh huh. (By the way, it is a fairly popular, celebrity-oriented column, not an obscure political or business column), but, ok, it's not really her job to know, so she connected me to the newsroom.
A guy on the newsdesk answered and I asked him the question. "Uhhh, I think so. I don't know. Let me connect you to that section editor." Oy.
Then, of course, I got the editor's voicemail.
Five minutes now on the phone trying to get a simple yes or no answer to an innocuous question.
I hung up, said the hell with it and sent an email to this columnist, at which point I got a bounceback saying he was on vacation for a few weeks.
That's it, the column hadn't run because he was on holiday. But trying to find out was a chore.
But if the people who work at the damn papers don't seem to read them, why are they surprised circulation is plummeting?
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