Thursday, July 10, 2008

Making a point

A little lighthearted news today...

A lot of people are disturbed with the direction our industry is headed. There isn't much that the average reader can do if the local daily starts cutting staff and reducing content. Most people either kvetch, or cancel their subscription in protest.

Keith Hempstead isn't most people.

Hempstead, a subscriber to the North Carolina-based News & Observer, is suing the paper for "breach of contract," alleging that the newsroom layoffs at that paper violated the terms of his subscription.

"I hate to see what companies that run newspapers are doing to the product," Hempstead said. "The idea that taking the most important product and reducing the amount of news and getting rid of staff to me seems pointless to how you should run a newspaper business."

Of course, the odds of Hempstead winning the suit are slim to none (and slim is on his way out of town as we speak), but one wonders what would happen if enough subscribers took the same stand and brought a class-action suit?

The ugly truth is that even if every single N&O subscriber joined a class action suit, it probably wouldn't be enough to force the paper to change their ways - but you have to admit, it would be fun to watch a story like that unfold.

The biggest fallout is publicity, and there's little to suggest that the N&O - or any other paper for that matter - is willing to surrender profits in pursuit of public opinion. N&O executive editor John Drescher understands that the suit is essentially an empty gesture, and has taken a decidedly tongue-in-cheek approach to the situation.

"We've had some really good papers recently, and they're worth more than the 36 cents a day that Mr. Hempstead is paying us," Drescher said.

"In fact, he owes me money," Drescher continued. "So when he gets a lawyer, he can work with my lawyer and figure out how much he's going to pay me for the excellent coverage he's been getting recently."

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