By Gallagher & Schleicher
Today’s Waco Tribune-Herald goes to great lengths to be a last refuge for civil discourse and remains a sort of town square for the earnest exchange of views on its opinion page. We are grateful that Waco has moved past the day like the one 123 years ago—per the pictured historical marker—when anger over an editorial was resolved by a downtown duel.
Our critiques and attempted satires of the Commander-in-Chief and others in national leadership thus have been responsibly dealt with simply by Letter-to-the-Editor rebuttals. Our columns at times were labelled “swill,” “supposedly funny trash,” and “bird cage lining” from a conspiratorial “Deep State Duo.” And so the relatively civil back-and-forth played out for the past few years. That is, until now, but more on that in a bit.
When it comes to local matters, we maintain a strong preference for city councils, school boards and other community-focused institutions that resolve problems in a non-partisan manner, reaching across ideologies as needed for workable solutions. But when looking toward Washington (and often, Austin), we remain profoundly disturbed at the coordinated attacks on small-d democracy, journalism, science, and basic common sense. Today, as the full weight of the pandemic is just now registering with us all, finding new ways to discuss (satirical or otherwise) what can only be described as a breathtaking failure of accountability is not particularly appealing to either of us.
This is especially true at a time when more immediate (and local) dangers confront us, such as the death of community newspapers. As the British Guardian recently headlined, “US newspapers face ‘extinction-level’ crisis as Covid-19 hits hard.” If you subscribe to the Trib’s ink and paper edition you see it every day: negative economic growth means less advertising, meaning there are fewer to pay the cost of getting you the news. It is not surprising that in response the Trib’s new ownership (Lee Enterprises) has imposed furloughs and pay cuts. As you may know, reporters in a town this size (print, broadcast and even online) already are paid barely enough to survive.
Waco needs the Waco Tribune-Herald. Sure, half the readers think it’s too liberal and others think it too conservative. That’s the nature of the beast in journalism: if you’re not offending fifty percent of the audience, you’re probably doing it wrong. Then there are those who are perturbed to find the editorial page full of opinions. So it is with modern media.
Losing its local newspaper would be an enormous loss to the community, from which it would not soon recover. Equivalent to losing its airport or a representative in Congress. We want no part of causing such a loss, even indirectly. Whether readers who unsubscribe due to frustration over our opinions, or advertisers who hesitate to spend money on an outlet they deem to be insufficiently supportive of the current president, we will not risk making things worse in an already challenging time.
We are therefore in the parlance of politics, “suspending” submission of our columns to the Waco Tribune-Herald, for at least six months. That’s right, after some three years of “the Davids’” columns—more than 50 of them—appearing regularly on the Trib’s opinion pages, you will no longer have to wonder whom our latest criticism of the President has upset enough to generate a Letter to the Editor.
This is not to say we’ll stop writing. But to read the roughly every-other-week columns, you’ll need to send an email to ContranymTimes@gmail.com to let us know you want to be on the recipient list, or like/follow Contranym Times on Facebook (as more than 300 others already have done), and/or see us on Twitter @ContranymTimes.
As we part, our hats are off to the Trib’s Opinion Page Editor, Bill Whitaker. While we had the pleasure of hearing directly from you that you read the columns even when you disagree with them, Bill took the heat, tending to hear mostly from those who found our columns upsetting. Bill is that rare Opinion Page Editor who eschews issuing lofty proclamations while hiding behind a keyboard. Instead (COVID-19 permitting) he is out in the community every day, attending a wide variety of events involving people all across the political spectrum.
If the Trib goes away, it may not come back. Waco could lose journalists the caliber of Bill Whitaker, Tommy Witherspoon, Kristin Hoppa, Carl Hoover, Rod Aydelotte, J.B. Smith, and all the others who tirelessly put out a quality product every day for far less pay than they are worth. Feel free to love or loathe “the Davids,” but please don’t let Waco lose its newspaper.
Support the Trib: read, subscribe, and advertise. Help preserve it just as you would any other business you want to help ensure survives COVID-19. Join us in continuing to follow the Trib’s in-depth coverage of everything from the pandemic to that day when we are grateful to read of the opening of the next Chip and Joanna Gaines venture.
David Gallagher is a transplanted Texan, living and working in London, who may be reached via Twitter @TBoneGallagher. David Schleicher is an attorney who splits his time between Waco and Washington, D.C., blogging at ContranymTimes.com.