If it’s mostly ads, is it a newspaper?

Thursday, July 26, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:37 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I remember the days when newspapers had news. Now they have advertising. If they can’t get it all in the basic paper, they add whole sections which they insert. Advertising spilling out everywhere. Oh, I know about the financial foundation supplied to the “news”-papers by advertising. It brings in the money, but it is one of the corrupting, negative factors in our capitalistic system. Certainly not the only one, but a very important one.

The old saw is that about 50 percent to 60 percent of the typical American newspaper is given over to advertising. Hogwash! I suspect it is closer to 70 percent or 80 percent and rising every month. I was looking at a copy of this very newspaper the other day and, lo and behold, I found eight news stories in the issue. Yes, eight. Everything else was advertising. And these eight were composed of featurized, picture-oriented stories and short one-column snippets of news.

And “My Columbia,” a tabloid published by this newspaper in June, contained 14 stories in the 32-page issue. In the issue were 32 advertisements, taking up more than half the pages. Most of the ads (at least the largest) were pushing real estate and automobiles. And in a randomly selected copy of the Boone County Journal, I found seven stories that might be called news that went beyond the one page of editorials and opinion. This was in a 14-page edition with an elongated four-page color grocery insert tucked in.

Back in February, I took a look at a copy of the Sunday Missourian, quite a hefty tabloid package of 36 pages in its news (A) section and 12 pages in its sports (B) section.

In the A section were 16 stories and two pages of “Commentary.” Quite a bit to read actually. But inserted in this package were the following: a four-page classified advertising section; a Parade magazine; a double-sided Medicare advertisement; an eight-page comics section; a 10-page Office Depot ad section; a 24-page JC Penney ad section; a 14-page “TV Week”; a four-page Columbia ad supplement; a 14-page real estate section with some 200 colored pictures of local homes; and then a final eight-page section devoted to Re/Max Boone Realty.

In June, a copy of the 24-page Weekend Missourian had 13 pages of advertising, plus a 32-page real estate supplement inserted. Most of the 24-page main section constituted features and pictures, with little hard news. The reader of the Weekend Missourian got plenty of advertising and knows that the real estate market is exploding.

Before long, we’ll simply be asking one another not “What’s the news?” but rather “What’s the ads?” Oh, for the days of the real newspapers.

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