Joe’s Journal

Facebook failures

Ramblings from an old scribbler
Wed, 04/07/2021 - 7:00am

    Here is a column that I just wanted to get off my chest.

    I dreamed I was talking to a guy and asked him what he thought about the school's proposal to spend nearly $50 million on needed improvements.

    "Nah. I don't know about it," he said. "I don't read the paper anymore. I get all the news I need on Facebook."

    He is not alone. Newspaper circulation is down nationwide. Many friends have told me they get their news on Facebook.

    Think about it for a minute.

    We all spend lots of time scrolling through the Facebook feeds. We look at lots of exciting stuff, like photos of cute kittens, and videos of people falling down in ways that are supposed to be funny. You can find political stuff, too, including lots of snarky comments disparaging one side or the other.

    You can find lots of videos of the giant container ship that somehow got stuck sideways in the Suez canal. Over the weekend, I saw videos of snowstorms in Cleveland, clips of some movie I saw about 10 years ago and didn't care for the first time around. There were cool photos of schooners, shiny guitars and cute grandchildren who belong to someone else.

    If you look closely, you can find stories swiped from the world's major newspapers.

    But I haven't seen many stories on the local school's plans to spend millions of taxpayer dollars. And folks, those plans will affect your wallet.

    I'll bet your Facebook posts won't tell you anything about local teachers’ hard work as they educate our kids during a pandemic. And they won't tell you that you can get a COVID-19 vaccination at the Boothbay Harbor YMCA, either.

    For local news, your local paper covers stories that matter to us all.

    Here are a few examples. Over the weekend, the bricks fell off the front of a Wiscasset building. You could get the story in this local news publication, and on its Facebook page. Has it been eight years since Boothbay was riled up when Maine Health in Portland decided to close our little hospital? Facebook didn't tell you much about it, but your local paper did, and put it on its Facebook page.

    Remember the controversy over plans to redesign a major intersection that inflamed local passions? There was so much interest that the Boothbay town selectmen begged the YMCA for space to hold meetings to accommodate folks who wanted to learn about and spout off about the roundabout. I don't remember reading lots of Facebook stories about it.

    Old-time editors say readers love the letters to the editor where neighbors can chime in on local issues. One likes this official. Another does not. One writes to thank the community for helping this cause, while another asks for help with that one. You get the idea.

    But wait. There's more.

    Major newspapers spend millions to gather, produce and distribute the news. Your local paper has costs, too.

    We both pay reporters, editors and ad sales staffers. We pay taxes and insurance. We have to pay to print the paper and deliver it.

    Papers fund these costs by selling ads and subscriptions. It is a challenging task. Some papers failed.

    In the last 15 years, about 2,000 American newspapers locked their doors.

    Many national and regional stories magically appear on your Facebook account. What does Facebook pay for these stories? Nothing. There are lots of ads on Facebook. Do the newspapers that provide them with the purloined content share in those ad dollars? Not a chance.

    Newspapers, including this one, can be sued and forced to defend themselves in court. That is one reason we are careful to follow accepted standards.

    For some reason, federal law shields Facebook, Twitter and other electronic websites from legal action. They can post anything and not worry about lawyers. That is one reason you receive hateful political and social online posts.

    Now, I understand it is convenient to check an online news feed. I do, too.

    I look at the Boothbay Register and Wiscasset Newspaper websites for local updates, and receive The Daily Catch. I encourage you to click it every day.

    You won't find many Facebook ads for local businesses.

    So, check your local paper if you are looking for a Boothbay plumber, a Wiscasset electrician, or a Damariscotta tree trimmer. If you want to sell something, hire someone to plow your snow, or tend your garden, check out our ads. Want to sell or buy a boat or a house? The first place to look is the local paper.

    What I am saying is that your local paper is special. Please support us. That is what I wanted to say.

    Be safe. Be well.