EDITORIAL: The dust isn’t settled yet

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT to our good friend Alan Chartock, it is not true that The Columbia Paper “bit the dust.” Not yet, anyway.

Alan, the founder and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio, was making a point last week on WAMC’s The Media Project show about the number of newspapers that have shut down. I tuned in just as he called The Columbia Paper a “great newspaper.” But I had no time to savor that praise before he pronounced this paper dead and lamented our passing.

If the Paper is Dead then Long Live the Paper. Put another way, there’s life left in us as a source of news about Columbia County. But Dr. Chartock is technically correct. I did “suspended publication” of the print edition after the March 26 issue. It was too risky for the delivery drivers. It was financially risky too. We lost almost all our revenue, which came from advertising and from subscriptions to the printed paper. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Imagine the future

If you want to understand why social distancing and quarantines matter now, read accounts of the flu pandemic of a century ago. U.S. cities that ignored the warnings that crowds were dangerous suffered the greatest loss of life in 1918-19 outbreak. That virus disproportionately killed otherwise healthy young adults.

My grandparents survived that pandemic and died half century later. It wasn’t until they were gone that a relative recounted a story about my maternal grandfather I hadn’t heard. He was a young doctor, just a few years out of medical school and a “general practitioner,” when he joined the Army in 1918. He was transferred from Kansas to Georgia and was boarding a troop ship bound for the “Great War” in France. But just before the gangplank was pulled up, someone shouted his name and handed him new orders to disembark.

I never heard my grandfather speak about that incident or anything else related to the pandemic, so it’s only guesswork to imagine why he was needed thousands of miles from the front lines. But one fact of that time can’t be ignored: more U.S. soldiers died from the flu than were killed in combat. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Fund Postal Service now

IS THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE a joke? Not if you depend on it for delivery of medicines or if you expect online purchases delivered to your doorstep. But last week the President of the United States called it “a joke.”

Maybe the president’s remark April 24 was sarcastic. He praised postal workers but said he wouldn’t support Covid-19 federal aid to the Postal Service until that agency raises the price to deliver e-commerce packages. He said the rates the Postal Service charges to deliver e-commerce packages should be four times higher than they are now, and he singled out Amazon as part of the problem. But charging that much more would increase the chances Amazon and other shippers will do their own deliveries, which would deprive the Postal Service of much-needed revenue. Is there a punchline here?

Columbia County has 32 post offices. Before we suspended distribution of The Columbia Paper print edition at the end of March, we had readers in every one of those 32 ZIP Codes and we delivered papers directly to all but two of those post offices. At some point the pandemic will be less of a threat and we can resume publishing our print edition. But we can’t return without the Postal Service to deliver each issue to subscribers. That’s why the president’s “joke” becomes a local story. Read more…

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: How long have you had these thoughts?

I HAVE BEEN GETTING a lot of letters positing that Donald Trump is a very bad man so someone, somehow, has to do something about that. Here are a few of them:

Dear Doctor: Trump is so dangerous that the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution should be invoked.

This amendment allows for presidential succession, but the rules are so complicated and potentially partisan that even in the case of a madman like Trump, it just isn’t going to happen. For example, you would need the “principal officers of the executive departments” (the cabinet) to sign on. Does anyone really think that these Trump-appointed cowards would agree to that? Nope, not going to happen. Nor will the spineless wonders in the Republican-dominated Senate (especially Mitch McConnell) show the courage to agree to even temporary disqualification. Look, I know that people are frustrated but just because you’re unhappy doesn’t mean that the 25th Amendment can be invoked easily. Read more…