Newspapers Equal the Inverse of Censorship

Newspapers Equal the Inverse of Censorship

Enclosed is enough funding to keep me informed by the Alameda Sun for several years or until rising sea levels transform our island into a saltine marsh or shoal, whichever comes first. I am not a pessimist, but were I to spend a little more, could I get survivor benefits for my subscription? I would like to leave something for my children.

Additionally, I take my summers on the shores of Hoboken, N.J., can I get same day delivery there? 

In the past, I had hoped to rescue many worthy publications from subsidence: The Daily Worker, Pravda, The Lennysaver, The Springfield Shopper, The Daily Planet, Mad, Cracked, La Prensa de Nicaragua and most importantly, the TV Guide. Turns out, I was more of a pile driver than a rescue buoy.

None of them kept its head above the fiscal waterline; hopefully by subscribing, I am not putting a hex on the Alameda Sun. Were the Sun to go away, it would eclipse some important voices in the community, casting a shadow of civic nescience over the reading public and give a green light to turpitude at city hall.  

Consider the inside scoop we get from Gretchen Lipow, the Rosa Luxembourg of Alameda. Or the inside story, as provided by freelancer David Howard, the Woodward or Bernstein of Alameda. Would Jean Sweeney, bless her soul, have prevailed against the Beltway abrogators and the lassitude of City Hall, had it not been for the spotlight local newspapers directed toward her mission?

Would the various and sundry Measure As have passed without the publicity provided by the Sun?

All forms of censorship are inimical to a vibrant democracy; losing a local newspaper weakens democracy at the grass-roots level. As reported on NPR radio just last week, as local newspapers disappear, opportunities increase for politicians and public employees to reach into the cookie jar and help themselves.

Journalism’s most important function is to act as a watchdog on government. But remember, a watchdog does not stop sticky fingers, but without the smoke alarm, no one responds to the minor conflagrations that eventually engulf some of the better stovetops.

Internet scholar Clay Shirky warned in 2009 that we could expect an “explosion of ‘casual endemic corruption’ as more and more small papers shut down.” The Alameda Sun, and its freelancing “deep throats” and “snitchers” and “leakers” have done an excellent job of shining light on the mold and mildew and redacted correspondence in the dank corridors of Alameda.

According to a recent study, lack of oversight can be measured by a rise in the cost of government in communities that lose their newspapers. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago found that a municipality’s borrowing costs increase in statistically significant ways in “news deserts” — that is, in places where there is no longer a local news outlet to sniff out sleaze.

Mismanaged projects — like Alameda Power’s misguided expensive foray into cable service — can be exposed by keyboard-happy curmudgeons and sleuthing investigative reporters employed — with or without pay — by the “tattletale” local newspaper. When a newspaper closes, the most important monitoring mechanism ceases to exist, leading to a greater risk that the municipal cash flows steadily escalate as accountability and oversight deescalate.
Ronald Reagan’s favorite Russian proverb was, “Trust but verify.”

While some say we cannot afford to keep the Alameda Sun, the truth may be, we cannot afford to lose the Sun. As the guy in the oil change commercial likes to remind us, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”

Or as my felonious Uncle Cusper was wont to say, “Why run for office if you don’t plan to parlay the public’s trust into personal gain?”

Then too, without the Sun, how would we get our measure of rhyme and meter from Gene Kahane and Cathy Dana, our poets laureate? Would we print their sonnets on shopping bags? We think not. Given the present dearth of quality journalism, is it any surprise that SAT scores are dropping like flies?

Even though my monetary contribution may not be sizeable, I would like to offer some editorial direction to the Sun that might boost circulation even in these trying times. I recommend expanded coverage even if it targets topics off the Island.

First, we hear very little about Bat Boy; the better tabloids are always reporting on him, why not the Sun? Why the news blackout? Is there a privacy issue that we don’t know about? Why does the National Enquirer get all the Bat Boy exclusives? Is it true Bat Boy only works the night shift and drives his car without headlights using echo location?

Then too, there’s Area 51; we read next to nothing on Area 51 or UFOs; why is the Sun keeping us from the truth? The public has a right to know. The statute of limitations is up on those aliens, it’s high time to reopen the case. I hear some of the aliens survived the crash and are living, undocumented, in a suburb of Zabriskie Point. Find them!

Thirdly, the Royal Family; admittedly it is not local news, but Harry and Meghan are reportedly living in a Los Angeles mansion.Eric or Dennis, if you’re listening, fire up the newsmobile and hop on I-5 south; with a drone camera and a telephoto lens, the paper could earn the next Pulitzer prize. Would it hurt the editorial standards of the Alameda Sun to include a tantalizing paparazzi piece a minimum of once a week?

As tabloid publisher Sid Hudgens played by Danny DeVito’s character in L.A. Confidential reminds Jack Vincennes about Hush Hush News: “Actually, it’s circulation is 36,000 and climbing. There’s no telling where this will go. Radio, television. Once you whet the public’s appetite for the truth, the sky’s the limit.”

Rarely would I over-simplify a solution, but Sid Hudgens is right, “you whet the public’s appetite for the truth” and watch circulation climb like a homesick angel.

Instead of being headquartered in a garret on Encinal Avenue, the Sun could be basking on E Z Street, with Dennis and Eric, both wearing Pulitzer Prize medals on their goat-skin vests.


Jeff Smith, U.S. Navy, (Ret.) teaches mathematics at Encinal High School.

Editor’s note: We appreciate everyone’s support. Donors have our word that the Sun does not have a budget line item for goat-skin vests.