I recently wrote a post in response to an article Mike Ramsey wrote in the business section of the April 9, 2006 Ann Arbor News about a looming labor shortage. I took issue with the tone and content of Mr. Ramsey’s article. From all appearances Mr. Ramsey only spoke to some corporate managers and not to any skilled employees actually trying to find work in Michigan right now. I posted a full copy of my letter in that previous post. Yesterday the Ann Arbor News decided to publish the letter I wrote. However, they edited out all references to the writer or the original article. This change caused a fundamental change to the meaning of my letter, which was meant to not only challenge the assertions of the article, but also criticize the writer. Letters to the editor are supposed to reflect the opinions of the readers of a publication. The editors of a publication have their own space for expressing their opinions on that page. The letters are supposed to provide another view. If the editors are going to change the meaning or intent of letters, they shouldn’t even bother to take letters. This disregard for the readership and the common good is one of the main reasons people are abandoning newspapers.
The only reason I even still get the AA News is because I want some local news. As I have seen more and more of the content of the paper being taken straight off the wires and the pages of the NY Times and Washington Post verbatim, I see less and less reason to subscribe. Worse yet is that this re-purposed content is often published locally days or weeks after appearing elsewhere. Often it is also incoherently edited, to fit into the available page space in the local paper. Since the net is my primary news source, I have usually seen most of this content on the day it was initially published. Newsvine, digg, and the other sources in my blogroll provide me much more timely and complete content and allow me to contribute my feedback immediately rather than 2 weeks after the original publication. The immediacy of the net also allows for almost real-time conversation, although this also allows for abuse, it is a small price to pay for the benefit of true mass communication.