Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Good Deals Come to Those Who Wait

We've been on the fence about renewing the News-Star, our local weekly newspaper. I like to keep informed about neighborhood news, but the paper has noticeably declined in quality since Pioneer Press bought out the Lerner chain.

First Pioneer Press unceremoniously dumped Ed Schwartz. I threatened to cancel my subscription but ultimately did not. Several familiar staff writers also disappeared without explanation. Then the News-Star went to a tabloid format like the Chicago Sun-Times (except stapled). I'll admit my complaint there is a matter of personal preference -- having been raised on the Chicago Tribune, I've never liked tabloids.

Worst of all, the copyediting descended to new lows after Pioneer Press took over. Granted, I have an eye for proofreading, but I shouldn't find errors in nearly every story. And I'm not talking about misspellings (though there are more of those than modern spell-checking software should allow). At least once a week, I will be reading an article to my wife and stumble over the words. A closer look explains why: the sentence as printed makes no sense. A word or phrase is missing, subject and verb disagree, the verb is in the wrong tense, or a modifier is misplaced. It's just awful -- high school level at best.

So when the News-Star sent renewal offers this summer, I was torn between my desire for news and my desire for a quality newspaper. The best deal they offered was $33 for three years. That was much better than their $18.50 annual rate, but I hesitated to commit to three more years of atrocious copyediting. Then I applied the same analysis I use with the Sunday Tribune: I can clip enough coupons in the Sunday paper to equal or exceed its price, so it's like getting the paper for free. The News-Star doesn't have a coupon section, but Monastero's, an excellent northwest side Italian restaurant where we had our wedding reception, is a regular advertiser. They usually offer a coupon good for $10 off a second entree. Since we eat there several times a year, that would more than justify the News-Star subscription. But despite my reasoning, I still didn't mail a check.

Last night we got a phone call from the News-Star. They asked me to renew. How much? "Five ninety-nine. We'll invoice you, and your subscription will continue uninterrupted." With the cost of the subscription appropriately reduced to the sale price of a 12-pack of Charmin Ultra toilet paper (big rolls), I accepted their offer.

Now if only they would hire me to be their copyeditor...

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