Wow! Newspapers are certainly dying off for many reasons, but the death of integrity in print journalism is one step nearer thanks to the recent actions of upper management at the Stoughton Courier Hub of Madison, Wisconsin.
Last July, the paper's editor, Autumn Drussell, wrote a column stating something that is painfully obvious not just to her but to millions of other people in this country: the economy is bad, and she is going to have to start being more careful with her spending. More specifically, she said she was shopping at lower cost stores. For some reason, this pissed off owners of stores who advertise in the paper.
So, guess what happened? Was she praised for putting into words what so many of us are doing? Was she supported by her newspaper because of her freedom of speech and the newspaper's responsibility to represent the people it serves?
No, she was demoted and the newspaper issued an apology for her OPINION because some local merchants complained.
I hope I am not being too simple here to point out that a lot of people are shopping in lower-cost stores because some other stores are just too expensive. While I am not a fan of Walmart's driving small businesses out of town, I totally understand the simple fact that they merchandise products at a lower price. If you want food, and have to watch your pennies, do you go to the expensive local butcher or someplace that sells the same product for less (and, in many cases, MUCH less)?
Sure, we need to support local businesses -- and, in normal times, we ALWAYS choose local over national businesses. BUT THESE ARE NOT NORMAL TIMES. Rather than shooting the messenger, maybe the local businesses in Madison should try some of Drussell's suggestions. We don't live in Wisconsin, so I don't know if they have customer service problems. I also don't know if they are not appealing to cost-conscious shoppers. But, really, is there ANY store in the entire world what should not make sure it provides good customer service and has options for cost-conscious shoppers? (Okeh, the stores on Rodeo Drive get a pass on this one.)
Drussell has filed a discrimination complaint to prevent her treatment from becoming precedent setting. All I can say to that is "You go girl!"
You can read more about this story here.
[I tried to find her original column on the Web, but had no luck. If anyone can locate a copy, please let me know.]