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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Three Papers Enter...One Leaves

I am in the middle of an epic battle for my soul.

As I have previously pointed out on this site, Athens is home to three newspapers: The Athens News, The Athens Messenger and The Post. I originally viewed this as good news...mostly because it is. Capitalism and competition are alive and well in Athens, Ohio, three cheers for college towns! But lately, I have had trouble deciding which one I should devote most of my time too. I have decided that enough is enough, it is time to let these three periodicals finally engage in their ultimate duel for my heart and mind. 

The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, however. I have decided to exempt The Athens Messenger from this mortal combat. I can tell loud and clear that I am not necessarily the demographic for the Messenger. It is a large, impressive daily tome that deals with county-wide issues and takes contributions from the AP and other national rags far more frequently than its local little brothers. Well played, Athens Messenger, you are free to go. This is not your battle. This bout belongs to the young guns: The Post and The Athens News. It is time for them to battle on three fronts: Appearance, Content and Features. May the best print win.

Front Page- You don't have to be a Journalism major to understand the importance of the front page. As a matter of fact, you don't have to be mentally sufficient to understand its importance. The front page is a first impression. How are the Post and News's first impressions? The Post is pretty by the book. They usually feature two stories above the fold. One, a hard news story and the other a small towny-college campus feature. Not very exciting stuff but I do live the graphic of grey bricks below the professional looking header. The Athens News, on the other hand features a giant, larger-than-life picture of whatever their headlining story is with headlines screaming at you like a 1700s town crier (HEAR YE, HEAR YE! DINING HALLS ARE OVERCROWDED!!!) And lest you forget you are about to read news, the "News portion of "The Athens News" is all capital letters and slightly big than all the other text on the front page. The bottom line is that if scientists announced that the world was ending in two days, I would rather see the Athens News front page, than the Posts the following day.
Advantage: The Athens News

Layout- Careful readers of my blog will know that the size and shape of a newspaper is very important to me. Nothing ruins my day like having to fold over cheap stock paper fifteen times over just to read an article.  The content is simply not worth the effort. Both the Post and The A-News earn gold stars here. While The Post is slightly guilty of this folding problem, it has an advantage over other papers. It is much smaller is size and also much smaller is pages. The effect is brilliant! No longer do readers have to juggle ninety pages and seven of material just to find out what their horoscope is today. The Athens News eschew the notion of a traditional newspaper layout altogether. Structurally speaking, it has much more in common with a cheap Automotive newspaper or an alternative inner-city press that pimps the newest indie band coming to town or tips on how to decorate your room with condom wrappers. It is the kind of presentation I appreciate. The only problem is that any type of folding is impossible without half of the pages falling out so I have to hold it open like a big, floppy book. I have to give The News credit for trying but this round has to go the other way.
Advantage: The Post

Graphics- You wouldn't know it by its front page but The Post is actually pretty dedicated to photos and graphics. They certainly feature more charts and their back page is always interestingly constructed regarding color and interesting sights. The Athens News, however, suffers from a dangerous affliction know as "floating head syndrome". Almost every article that is accompanied by a stock photo of the subject's smiling (or frowning for football players) head. I am starting to think that the photography department's budget is entirely spent on the front page. It wouldn't surprise me if a story about the most fiery explosive car crash in world history features only the police officers smiling publicity photo as the article's graphic. Also, like interesting charts or graphs? Tough luck, kid, the Athens News doesn't care.
Advantage: The Post

Quality of Writing- The Post is chiefly a student run newspaper...and it shows. The writing isn't terrible but its weak writing is sometimes noticeable and that is not a good thing. The Athens News isn't necessarily on par with The New York Times but you can usually read without having to stop.
Advantage: The Athens News

Distribution- If there were a nuclear Holocaust, the only things that would survive are cockroaches, Twinkies and The Post. Everyday of my life, I can walk into virtually any establishment on campus and pick up a fresh copy. And they exist in such abundance they might as well fall from the sky. Its counterpart's distribution is as about as regular as a supermodel's bowel movements (this sentence represents a new low in my writing career). As far as I can tell, The Athens News is produced and released as often as The Athens News feels like it. The University just outlawed pants? We should really put out on article about that, but not now, Rachael Ray is on!
Advantage: The Post

Advertising- This one just isn't even close. The Post's skinny body can barely support its articles, let alone any semblance of quality advertising. I am convinced The Athens News is where every company west of New York City advertises their product. And they are not annoying ads. They are useful-funny-as-hell ads. My first week in Athens, I vividly remember an ad for an automotive body shop declaring: "let this man put his dirty hands on your body" with a picture of the deranged looking owner next to it. They have since cleaned it up (Boo politically correct ads!!!), but it was fun while it lasted. The Athens News's ads and coupons also pretty much determine where I am eating that week. Cheese stuffed pizza is HOW much this Thursday? Give me the phone now!
Advantage: The Athens News

Politics- This is what I imagine what the writer's room looks like at the Athens News: a giant poster of Che Guevera with red, white and blue watermarked  behind him, a dartboard with George W. Bush's face on it and cellar where corporate executives are chained only to be brought out every three hours and tortured to within an inch of their life. Suffice it to say, the Athens News lets its partisan flag fly. Some of the editor's notes are so hostile towards John McCain that I am considering calling Witness Protection to protect the guy. And virtually every article is presented from a left-leaning angle. The Post on the other hand, does its best to present both sides of every issue. Even the editorials are pretty fair and pretty tame. They even let some of the major University players in the news use the paper as a sounding board. Good old fashioned, fair reporting.
Advantage: The Post

Sports- Without a sports section, I don't read the paper, it is that simple. So needless to say, this one is pretty important. The Post puts the effort forward, they really do. During baseball season, they have the scores of Indians and Reds's games in the top right corner. They take the the all-inclusive approach. Football is popular but the editor's clearly work hard to ensure that every sport is represented and every one gets a fair........oh I am sorry, I nearly dozed off. The Athens News does little better but they DO give football and the other major sports extra attention. Neither really deserves to win this category, but the presence of the mighty Caleb Troop swings this one in the direction of The News.
Advantage: The Athens News

Entertainment- Wow, it appears that both fighters are losing energy. There efforts are seriously lacking here. The Athens News entertainment section is mightily boring but at least it actually exists, so I am going to have to give them the edge here. Although I certainly do not feel good about it.
Advantage: The Athens News

Frequent Contributors- So, who can really charm the pants off me and give me reason to come back? The Athens News goes with a quantity over quality philosophy. This includes Editor Terry Smith's regular column, Amy Alkon's regular advice Q and A and of course, the aforementioned Caleb Troop. Terry Smith's editorials are long-winded beasts that essentially say: "Fuck you, Sarah Palin" in just under 123,902,472 words. As for Amy Alkon, I am convinced that all her questions come from the same woman:
 "Amy, why are all the guys I meet jerks?" 
And her answer is always the same: "Guys will be guys, just put out and stay out of his way and you two will be married in no time". 

The Post, however, features a certain writer whom I wasn't very fond of to begin with. His name is Nick Philpott and something about his writing turned me off. I finally realized that he has the same writing style as I do and that weird feeling I had was a jealous rage over the fact that he does what I do, only way way way better. I give in, Mr. Philpott, you are funny as hell and I love reading. Kudos to The Post to giving a talented writer a semi-regular column instead of succumbing to the "everyone gets a chance to play" mantra. Ballsy for a student newspaper.
Advantage: The Post

Letters to the Editor- Another tale of two newspapers. The Post doesn't really care what you have to say. Occasionally, they will let a guest professor right an article and if someone writes in saying an error, they will print a retraction themselves, thank you very much. I am pretty sure, however, that everyone in Athens rights for the Athens News. There are a good 4 or 5 pages worth of nothing but letters to the editor. These can be anything from a couple thanking the nice anonymous man who stopped by to help them fix their tire at the side of the road to a scathing essay about how Dick Cheney should be put to death by lethal injection. I am not sure if this makes The Athens News better journalistically than The Post, but it sure is entertaining.
Advantage: The Athens News

Unintentional Comedy Factor- The Athens News headline today read: "Voters must decide between Payne and Pancake", of course referring to a local election. This makes me chuckle for no other reason than it creates the image of pollsters calling random people and asking "Would you prefer pain or pancake?", followed by a minute of stunned silence. No one wins this round, I just wanted to bring it up.

Here is the final tally:
The Athens News: 6 
The Post: 5

There you have it! Finally, some closure. The Athens News is unequivocally the better newspaper. I will only read that periodical exclusively. Although, I am going to miss Philpott...and the Athens News's bias really bugs me...and it is going to be a pain in the ass to hold it...

You know what, I will just read both. When in Athens, do as the Romans do.

Don't worry, I don't get it either.


Woozie said...

I was unaware one could right for a paper, especially one with a Che mural in their office.

Melis said...

Not going to lie, I like the Post better. The layout is a lot cleaner and I don't care for the open book style for newspaper. Also, I think there's a thing as too much opinion. I barely see any news in the "news". Not that the Post is perfect. I'm just saying I'm more likely to read the Post than any other people but I'm not going to patron to any one paper exclusively.