The New Wednesday Journal's first birthday

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Darwin taught us that everything must adapt or die. Local weekly newspapers like this one are no exception. So late last September Wednesday Journal launched, the new and improved version of the print paper.

Now I had written a column for the print newspaper for more than 10 years. At one time I got paid $50 for each column, but budgetary considerations eliminated my stipend. I offered to pay the paper $50 for each column because I like writing it, but thankfully no one took me up on my offer. When the paper went electronic, I was asked to become a blogger. I was flattered and I work for free. I write for a public audience because it's fun — like playing golf or watching the Bears with my boys.

So I've written 99 blogs — like clockwork — two every week for a year. Sometimes I get no response. Crickets chirping. I just hope someone at least read it. Thank God for the Comcast building, District 97's referendum and crime in Oak Park. Like bear-baiting, those topics are guaranteed posted responses. I'm jealous of the food and fashion bloggers. They get lots of responses. I don't get it, but then I think all hot dogs and sushi taste the same, and Marsha buys my clothes.

At the outset, I was told by my bosses that we were looking for a neighborhood-over-the-back-fence conversational vibe. Unfortunately, our virtual neighborhood is populated by some neighbors who won't shut up. These posters have opinions on every issue in town, and keep posting and posting. They're smart, but not that smart. I suspect there are lots of people who would have really good insights on the many issues that confront us but are turned off by the incessant aggressive clamoring of a few. Like the Southern botanical scourge kudzu, other opinion is overwhelmed by a virulent species.

The posting is sometimes so diffuse as to be incoherent. I just quit reading. In the old days, a person had to take the time to write a letter, address an envelope and mail it. Today you can be sitting in your underwear on your fourth glass of Merlot and push a button. This ease of access, the notion that everyone's opinion is equally valid, and the ad hominem attacks on private citizens sometimes gives me pause as to what exactly is the point of all this. There's the obvious one: make money. The more traffic, the better. But what else? At its worst, it is a small group of people with personal agendas trying to show how smart they are. That will not be sustainable for the long term.

If the posters can't restrain themselves, then should. Limiting, editing or managing the frequency and content of the discussion is entirely within the purview of the owner. This has nothing to do with free speech. If you don't like it, start your own blog or shut up.

However, given the reality of one-party rule in village government and little budget for investigative reporting, the posters are about the only residents keeping a watchful eye on our governing bodies, and that is a good, even essential, thing. And there is a lot of very good and entertaining content.

So it's been an interesting year. I suspect all of us — editors, bloggers and posters can do better. Time will tell. Sometimes the journey is more interesting than the destination.

Reader Comments

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john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 30th, 2011 12:20 PM

Thanks, Q

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 30th, 2011 12:18 PM

john murtagh from oak park, that is some really funny writing. Very well done, and a lot of truth in that fable. I like how you added in the wise men, but there are only 3 really wise men in the village and of course, our loving king who spreads the word.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: September 30th, 2011 12:08 PM

Thanks to Dan Haley and the Wednesday Journal for providing this community forum. We've never had anything like to discuss issues and share information. There have been lots of interesting debates and a terrific exchange of ideas. It's probably true that some post too often but the benefits seem to far outweigh the negatives. As word spreads, I look for "people who would have really good insights" to join the public discourse.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 30th, 2011 11:24 AM

A FABLE - Once upon a time many months ago, Dan, the Newspaper King, decided to give his online newspaper free to anyone that wanted it. As a bonus he let the online readers comment on the news as many times as you want for free. Not only was the online paper free, it didn't even have much advertising. The wise men in the village wondered if the king had lost his mind. While he was a generous king, they knew he never gave anything away without getting something in return.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 30th, 2011 11:23 AM

The village peasants loved King Dan. For the first time they could say anything they wanted without getting lashed or ignored. The wise men were outraged. They said, "The peasants were nasty, rude, unfair, wrote poorly, used phony names, and said bad things about those who were wise." They told King Dan that he had to do something about the peasants who were using words to ransack the village. They said, "King Dan, why are you doing this? You will lose customers."

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 30th, 2011 11:22 AM

King Dan said "No, I will gain customers, the more the peasants write, the more the villagers read my paper and advertisements." King Dan said "And their writing cost me nothing - their research is free." The wise men said, (cont) "Huh!" The King said, "You see there are a lot more people reading the peasants words without writing any themselves. " They are the magic customers that no one can see except the king and the peasants. The wise men


Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:04 PM

Q, they had to buy it from someone. Not sure the price.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 11:59 AM

Hubbach - before this issue get heated up, I have one question. You stated that "our virtual neighborhood is populated by some neighbors who won't shut up." Are you being selective about the neighbors that should shut up or do Ken Trainor religious and gun posters count? Your comment about no one posting on your blog and Ken's return visit this week to guns while citing his 273 posters seem to indicate an internal WJ competition or riff. Is it?


Posted: September 28th, 2011 7:22 AM

So you feel sad that you don't get comments like the ladies who write about fashion, but the commenters are a bunch of drunk morons anyway. Ego control issues much? Maybe you should take your ball and go home.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 11:56 PM

John Hubbuch, maybe you might know someone who will do investigative reporting for free because they enjoy that type of reporting. Put the word out and you might find someone. It was a good find that the W.J. could get the name. Do you know if it was always available or did the W.J. need to buy it from someone else? You would think a town like Oak Park would have grabbed it when domain names first started. How cool to have a town with the name of the town as a domain name.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 11:48 PM

John, as a reporter/columnist you know you are responsible to identify names when you refer to people as "virulent species." Dan gave OP the WJ Comments and can take it away or restrict its use. Who knows the issue being discussed might go away. I personally like the WJ Comments over the WJ letters to the Editor. In Comments there is a dialog. In Letters to the Editor not so.

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