Independence Day

AT MY DESK, JULY 4, 2010

The disgruntled Declaration of an American Newspaper Subscriber

When in the Course of a newspaper subscription it becomes necessary for one reader to dissolve the commercial band that has connected him to the daily local and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal stations to which the Law of Supply and Demand and the Free Market entitles him, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.

I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all newspaper readers are created equal, that they are endowed by their literacy with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are the expectation of a decent Life section, Liberty from shameless and unwarranted self-promotion, and the pursuit of Happiness under a fair and reasonable home subscription rate.  — That to secure these rights, Journalistic and Publishing Standards are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Free Market, — That whenever any Newspaper becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Reader to alter or to abolish it, and to utilize Alternative Media Sources, choosing reputable outlets according to such principles and organizing his browser bookmarks in such form, as to him shall seem most likely to effect his Informed Opinion and Consumer Happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Newspaper Subscriptions long established should not be canceled for light and transient causes;  and accordingly all experience hath shewn that a loyal readership is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right itself by abolishing the daily delivery to which it is accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under an absolute Monopoly, it is his right, it is his duty, to throw off such Newspaper, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of this Reader; and such is now the necessity which constrains him to alter his former Means of Gathering News.  The history of The Columbus Dispatch is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Commercial Tyranny over this Reader.  To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

The Columbus Dispatch has thinned over the years, offering less content than at the inception of my subscription.

The Columbus Dispatch rarely delivers an issue that is not marred by page-length creases that obscure text and poorly registered color photos that make everyone look like they’re wearing anti-reflection eye black, as preferred by football players.

The Columbus Dispatch did embarrassingly pepper one Sunday edition with icons designating exclusive content in a pathetic effort to show everyone just how much they would miss if they chose a Dispatch-free existence.

The Columbus Dispatch relies on an abundance of syndicated content, frequently running items that I read over a week ago in The New York Times online and truncating their length with unscrupulous editing decisions that make the original authors look like they have forgotten the basic rules of composition.  I mean, criminy, The Lima News, which serves my dinky hometown, does a better job in this area.

For sending me a letter indicating that as of my next monthly electronic billing deduction, I will be invoiced at a rate More Than 100% Greater than what I was paying one year ago.

For having the chutzpah to suggest in the same letter that the aforementioned exclusive content, award-winning reporting and valuable, money-saving coupons are what make The Dispatch a great value, even at the dramatically increased price.

For failing to provide the means by which I might cancel my subscription online, requiring instead that I call by phone and speak to a Customer Service Representative.

For requesting that I give a reason for my subscription cancellation, then responding by offering an Introductory New Subscriber rate guaranteed for six months representing a 65% Increase over what I was paying one year ago.

For failing to take seriously my suggestion to renew my subscription at its current rate guaranteed for one year.

For further suggesting that I simply reduce the number of days of the week that I take The Dispatch before finally relenting and allowing my subscription to lapse, with the last issue to be delivered, Appropriately Enough, on the Fourth of July.

For being blind to the stark fact that their model of doing business is to modern commerce what the Titanic was to icebergs, and unless they wish to fold as irreparably as one of those aforementioned, damn page seams, they’re going to have to jettison all the syndicated stuff and run only the aforementioned exclusive content.

The Columbus Dispatch has also inflicted upon its readers an undue amount of Bush-League Writing, particularly in the so-called Arts section, which would be fully acceptable in a student lab newspaper but is rather embarrassing coming from the sole daily paper in one of our state’s Major Metropolitan Areas.

The Columbus Dispatch persists in running a weekly wishy-washy column from its Editor in which the Vocation of Journalism and the Inability to Please All People is patronizingly explained.

In every stage of these Oppressions I have Grumbled Quietly in the most humble terms:  My repeated Grumbling has been answered only by repeated injury.  An Esteemed Daily Local, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a mediocre periodical of College Newspaper Quality and Grandfathered-In FCC-Monopoly-Legislation-Skirting-Ownership-Of-Multiple-Local-Media-Outlets, is unfit to be the paper of this free reader.

Nor have I been wanting in attentions to my subscribing brethren.  I have warned them from time to time of attempts by our paper to impose an unwarrantable title of Loyal Reader upon us.  I have reminded them of the circumstance of our initial subscription.  I have appealed to their consumer justice and magnanimity, and I have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our water cooler conversations over whatever travesty ran in The Dispatch on any particular morning.  They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity.  I must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold The Columbus Dispatch, as I hold most publications, Unworthy Of My Subscription.

I, therefore, a Responsible and Productive member of society, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of my intentions, do, in my Name, and by the Authority of My Wife, solemnly publish and declare, That this Dispatch Reader is, and of Right ought to be a New York Times Reader, that I am Absolved from all Allegiance to The Columbus Dispatch, and that my 20-year subscription is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a Free and Independent Reader, I have the full Power to Glean Free Content from the Dispatch website, to Scan the Paper at the library, to Take Possession of copies left behind at Starbucks, to Resort to the Atrocious Local Newscasts for information, to Look Up from reading the free community papers and Announce “Really, this is all I need to know right here”, to backslide whilst saving face by renewing with a far cheaper Electronic Subscription to The Dispatch, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent Readers may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Consumer Law, I pledge my Life, my Fortune, and my sacred Honor.

Robert Gerard Hunt