02 May, 2015

When Will Newspapers Figure Out That The Way To Keep Subscribers Is To Report News Readers Can't Get Elsewhere?

Yesterday I emailed the 13th circuit court to find out why I can't find the exact text of the sentence Judge Carrie Webster handed down to local drug felon, Timothy Basham, on the internet. A few hours later I received a phone call from someone who only identified herself as "Jenny." Jenny told me she could either fax or mail me a copy of the official sentencing information. I asked her to email it to me. She said she couldn't do that. 

If I were a 13th circuit judge like Carrie Webster and I wanted to be re-elected to the bench, I would hire a a PR person to publicize the convictions of drug dealers like Timothy Basham. A PR person would probably put up a website, start a blog and do some tweeting to publicize the sentencing of drug dealers by Carrie Webster and other judges with a "soft-on-crime" reputation. Now that former legislator, Suzette Raines, no longer has her $75,000 job with AG Patrick Morrissey, maybe she would work cheap. 

If I were a local newspaper editor like Rob Byers at The Charleston Gazette or Chris Dickerson at The West Virginia Record, I would assign a reporter to hang out at the courthouse and report all the stuff that happens after the arrest - court dates, attorneys, sentencing.  

Perhaps if Kelly Stadleman had planted reporters in Putnam and Cabell County courthouses and given her target markets the news nobody else will give them, her excellent small newspapers would still be in business. I don't know Ms. Stadeleman and I didn't live in one of the counties her papers covered, but I was sad to see The Cabell Standard and The Putnam Standard go out of business after she did so much to improve them. When Stadleman took over The Putnam Standard it looked like an overgrown church bulletin. Stadleman improved the look, the writing and the reporting. It wasn't enough.

West Virginia's judicial opacity is West Virginia newspapers' opportunity squandered. When will somebody in the news business figure out that the way to save themselves from bankruptcy is to report news that readers can't get anywhere else? 


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