Opinion » Bill Cope


And other stuff not to put on the front page


Now that we've had time to absorb the initial shock of learning our beloved Gannett Corporation will no longer be a part of this big ol' extended family we call "Boise," I'm offering a few suggestions to the in-coming Knight Ridder (who I propose we refer to as "our new step-media-conglomerate-daddy," at least until we're comfortable with them filling Pop Gannett's huge shoes). While it's generally unwise for a writer from one paper to be telling another paper what they ought to do, my ideas are meant merely to help the heartbroken get over this tragic loss. I understand it may be a bit premature, seeing as how Gannett's hand in our daily local hasn't even grown cold yet. One can almost hear the lamentations of grief-stricken Statesman readers: "Cope, you insensitive bastard! Where is our closure? Give us time to mourn, for God's sake!"

But dangit, what would our rugged Treasure Valley ancestors think if they could see us behaving like bereft Trekkies, brought to their knees by the untimely cancellation of Enterprise? We must go on! No matter how devastating a loss we have suffered, it's vital that we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and climb back up on that horse. Newspaper. Whatever.

So to make the bereavement pill go down easier, I have compiled these teensy-tiny policy changes to alleviate the post-partum sorrow of our community's Gannett admirers. Mind you, they aren't miracle cures that will make everyone recover immediately to a future without the dearly departed. But as any grief counselor can tell you, healing comes one baby step at a time.

Let us baby step first to the funnies, shall we? For the healing to begin, it would be fitting if Knight-Ridder moved all the comic strips back to the comics page. You know ... where they belong. This may seem like an insignificant matter, but for this funnies aficionado, it has been a persistent irritant that Gannett scattered the best comics all over the paper-a symptom of their deteriorating condition, no doubt. They put Dilbert in the business section because it has to do mostly with a work environment, and they put Doonesbury on the editorial page because it has to do mostly with politics, and they buried Shoe back in the classifieds because ... because ... well who the hell knows why?

But as newspaper people should have learned on the very first day of newspaper school, the funnies have a cumulative effect and are meant to be read all at once, without the distraction of having to wrestle with a new center crease every strip. It's like a garden, you see. A fellow doesn't want to be shown one flower at a time, then have to slog a half-mile through RC Willey inserts to the next flower. No, you want to see the entire garden at once. That's the power of gardens, as it is with the funny papers.

(Incidentally, if there are problems fitting all the good strips on the same page, they can make room by taking out Sally Forth and putting it ... uh, I guess I really don't give a damn where they put Sally Forth.)

As long as we're on the subject of things being in the wrong place, who's with me in thinking the editorial pages ought to be up closer to the stories those editorials are about? You know ... like in Section A, instead of tucked away back behind the obituaries.

And along the same lines, unless a Boise State football player kills somebody or turns out to be the guy who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Robert Novak, I can't help but feel that news of the Broncos should be confined to the sports page. I am sure they are an outstanding football team, as football teams go, and I'm as happy as the next U of I alum that Coach What's-His-Name has enjoyed such success among people who give a crap about who wins what football game. But still, they are just a football team, and surely, there are better uses for a front page.

Our new neighbor Knight-Ridder might also want to consider having more than one reporter on staff for covering local scandals and corruption and shenanigans in high places. Think about it: What would happen if a Jack Noble-ish episode should break out, and Popkey was on vacation? Or even worse, how's about if a Noble, a Brent Coles, a University Place and a governor's bounced haircut check should all pop up at once? There's only so much Dan to go around, yes?

If it were me, I'd move one of the entertainment writers over to the muck-raking department. That Deeds fellow, for instance. I'm sure he'd do a splendid job. Truly, he couldn't possibly know less about covering a decent scandal than he appears to know about covering decent music.

And finally, unless they come up with something else to put in the Sunday paper-and I mean something spectacular, maybe along the lines of a serialized novel by a well-known author or a free bag of charcoal briquettes-it isn't worth a buck-fifty. Of course, I speak only for those of us who buy our Statesmen from paper boxes and convenience stores. I understand it's a little cheaper to have a paper boy stop by every day, but subscription is such a commitment, isn't it? And commitments have never come easily to me. That's the trouble you run into when you're always waiting for something better to come along.

But frankly, since there is no substantial difference between the Sunday edition and the daily versions (other than colored funnies and a bigger crossword), I suspect what I'm paying the extra money for is the advertisements. And if my suspicions are true, it means the advertisers are paying the Statesman to carry their ads ... and then I'm paying the paper $1.50 to buy those ads, only to lug them to the recycling bin ... and then I'm paying the garbage haulers to carry those ads from my house to the recycling center, who sells the recycled product to a newspaper and it comes back to me as a future Sunday edition I'll have to pay another $1.50 for ... and it all starts to get to me thinking. Like, shouldn't I be getting paid for something or other?

I'm not nearly out of baby steps yet, but I am nearly out of space. I so much wanted to mention the possibility of hiring back some of the local features writers that Gannett has sent packing over the years. And I was hoping to bring up the possibility of making the Life section just a tad more appealing to adults. But those things can wait. The important thing right now is to get over Gannett, isn't it? Or better yet, to forget they were ever here.