Don’t mess with the readers

A couple of weeks ago, the faxes at the Gazette were more active than usual. A letter came in, in ALL-CAPS RAGE format, which took issue with the paper’s decision to streamline the TV Times listings booklet that comes in Saturday’s paper:

WE ARE TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTED WITH YOUR CHANGES TO TV TIMES. THE MANNER YOU PROCEEDED WAS ARBITRARY, WITHOUT NOTICE NOR EXPLANATIONS.

YOU CANNOT CLAIM PAPER ECNOMY (sic) SINCE YOU HAVE WASTED NUMEROUS FULL AND PARTIAL PAGES OF SENSELESS GRAY FOR MANY YEARS. MORE TREES HAVE BEEN FELLED THAN TV TIMES WILL EVER REQUIRE.

SINCE THE DATA IS ALREADY DIGITIZED THERE IS NO ADDITIONAL LABOUR IN PRINTING THE INFORMATION.

YOU ARE CAUSING A SERIOUS DISSERVICE TO THE NIGHT VIEWERS SINCE THEY CANNOT PLAN THEIR VIEWING NIGHTS; THEY ARE TOTALLY IGNORANT OF THE PROGRAMMES AVAILABLE TO THEM.

IN ADDITION YOU ARE ROBBING THE SPONSORS OF THESE PROGRAMMES OF THE EXPECTED EXPOSURE OF THEIR PRODUCTS OR SERVICES. YOU ARE ALSO SHORTCHANGING US, YOUR READERS, OF AN ESSENTIAL INFORMATION THAT WE PAY FOR AND EXPECT.

WE SUGGEST THAT YOU USE YOUR EDITORIAL PAGE TO ADMIT YOUR ERROR AND APOLOGIZIE (sic) FOR THE INCONVENIENCE YOU HAVE CAUSED BY YOUR UNTIMELY DECISION.

SINCERELY YOURS,

ASSIDUOUS TV TIMES NIGHT READERS

The fax (who uses faxes anymore, anyway?) was followed by others, hand-written like they were ransom notes:

IT WASN’T BROKE

WHY SCREW IT UP?

TV TIMES IS A MESS

FIX IT RIGHT LIKE IT WAS

and

SNAFU

TV TIMES IS SCREWED UP

FIX IT RIGHT

Those faxes were resent at a rate of one a minute for over an hour before the faxes were shut off to avoid wasting any more paper. Over 50 faxes that powers that be will never see (unless they read this blog), and which won’t change anything.

But it served as a reminder that despite all the times I hear “I don’t read The Gazette” when I talk to people my age about it, there are plenty of people in an older age group who take the paper very seriously (and think their news judgment is vastly superior to everyone else’s).

Another reminder came as I started hearing (and reading) comments from readers who heard about the paper’s plans to make the Monday paper “more compact” like Sunday’s through a survey the paper commissioned. They’re almost universally opposed to the idea, and most took the time to complain that the Sunday paper needed to be fixed by adding more content and splitting up the sections again (currently it’s in two sections, the second being sports and classified).

The Gazette is also considering cutting the width of the paper by 2.5 inches, in order to make it more convenient to use as well as to save money on newsprint. (Considering how much I read the paper on public transit, any size reduction – provided the content stays the same – is welcome in my book).

A lot of people think they have better ideas on how to spend the paper’s money. More sports, less sports, more analysis, less analysis, longer articles, shorter articles, more hard news, more lifestyle features. Others simply demand the paper spend more money until it goes bankrupt.

I’m just glad they care.

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