ATTENTION SHOPPERS, here’s a tip: Some clever gift buyers have discovered that copies of this newspaper make a great stocking stuffers. How do we know? Because those shoppers went to stores where we sell papers in Ancram, Copake and Hillsdale and bought every paper on the shelf the day after they came out. One woman bought 91 copies at a single store. Imagine the joy on the faces of her kids Christmas morning!
These savvy consumers haven’t identified themselves so far, and though they delivered an unexpected and welcome gift to our bottom line, we may never get the chance to thank them. That’s one of the great things about a newspaper. You don’t have to explain why you bought it or what you plan to read.
But could our benefactors have had something else in mind other than the obvious delight that comes from owning piles of The Columbia Paper from one week? Could they possibly have hoped that by buying so many copies they would prevent their neighbors from reading a story we printed? Nooooo. Any reasonable person would reject that explanation.
A few hours after confirming that stores in the Roe Jan area had sold all their copies of the paper, we restocked the shelves. Some folks who looked for the paper probably couldn’t find that issue, but much of the news of the week also appeared on our website, www.columbiapaper.com, and can still be found there. Then there’s the fact that we have more subscribers in that region than we have newsstand sales. So if anybody did want to prevent people from reading something in that issue of the paper, buying only the newsstand copies was an ineffective way to do it.
If anyone were trying to prevent the public from reading the paper, maybe the person or persons who did it were reacting to something they read that made them angry. But trying to muzzle the press doesn’t work nearly as well as using the press as a platform to present a different point of view. This paper offers that option on our letters pages. Readers who want to take issue with something published here have the opportunity to speak their mind at no cost… except, perhaps, to us.
Somebody with really deep pockets and an organization could undoubtedly buy all the newspapers he or she wanted in order to block the public from knowing about something happening in the community. That happens in old movies. But in real life, the folks who don’t like the news start their own news outlet or buy one that already exists. Look at Rupert Murdoch. Taking a single issue off the newsstands is a sucker’s game.
Following a wildly speculative line of thought, you have to wonder what it says if a person thinks he or she can hoodwink the public by rounding up a few copies of a newspaper. Imagine if that person had a position of responsibility. Who could trust somebody who assumes the citizens of a democracy could be so easily manipulated? Friends, neighbors, casual acquaintances talk, email, text and otherwise connect in all sorts of ways. I’d love to think The Columbia Paper is the only way people get their news around here, but it isn’t. Word gets out.
Places like China, Iran and North Korea devote immense resources aimed at preventing their people from hearing divergent points of view. Undoubtedly they do block some nasty stuff, but they use that goal to justify oppression, all in the name of protecting a nation from “harmful influences.” Sure, misinformation can do harm, but that’s the risk we take to foster a society that values knowledge based on the free exchange of ideas. Ignorance, by contrast goes hand in hand with tyranny.
It’s a stretch to equate gross abuses of human rights with buying a bunch of local newspapers, especially when no one’s willing to say what motivated him or her to buy them. Maybe our mystery customers were really elves from Santa’s workshop who wanted to give us a holiday gift. And here I go, like Scrooge, suspicious of their intentions, when all they had in mind was spreading good cheer at this joyous time of year. So whoever you are, let’s forget about the past and look to the future. And if, in the future, you ever need some extra papers, drop by the office. We’ve got plenty.