As a former newspaper reporter, I feel like a dirty traitor saying this: but I just might cancel our subscription to The Washington Post.
That's how much I hate what they've done with the paper.
I grew up reading the Post and even delivered it on occasion when neighbors with paper routes went on vacation. I remember piecing together the Sunday paper from various stacks piled high on the floor of the garage. Then delivering the behemoths as the sun rose over our suburban streets with my father's massive blue wheelbarrow.
My love - and allegiance - for my hometown paper runs deep, in other words.
I revered Mary Jordan like others look up to rock stars; I picked Colman McCarthy when a college professor asked us to write about someone we admired (he even gave me a tour of the newsroom); and my ultimate career goal, for a time, was to work in the Post's Tokyo Bureau.
When we moved back to the area several years ago, from a place I didn't want to leave, one of the few positives was that I got to walk out my door every morning and find the Post on my sidewalk.
A lot has happened to the paper in the past three years. A lot of crummy crap in my opinion.
It started when they dropped the "Life is Short" feature from the Sunday Style section. I loved that feature. It was the first thing I looked for when I opened the Sunday paper. And I wasn't alone. When I had my own 100-word piece published, friends, neighbors and strangers in the coffee shop stopped to tell me they saw my haiku. To a person, they told me it was the feature they looked forward to most.
A few months later, it was gone.
Then, in no particular order, the Post dropped Book World; folded a separate Arts section into Style on Sundays, ditched a stand-alone Business section; revamped the Weather page into something unhelpful and lamentable; created a Local Living insert that's not at all enticing and altogether forgettable; made the WP Magazine seem more like a cartoon than a periodical; and then, AND THEN....
A few days before Halloween, I pulled the paper out of the delivery bag to find what the paper's ombudsman described as "the most significant redesign in more than a decade."
Was this a trick? It certainly wasn't a treat!
My head spins when I look at it. Like I've just gone ten rounds of "Ring Around the Rosy" with the kids. There's so much going on - so many competing fonts and colors - that my eyes don't focus on anything.
And let me just say, I'm NOT a fan of the writer's portraits. Or the remodeled Reliable Source (it's bigger but definitely not better) and Date Lab features. The last of which was a topic at a recent Halloween party. Note to the Post: no one at the party liked the change or understood the reason for it.
Sometimes it feels like the people in charge are throwing spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks. I know newspapers are suffering but why do the readers have to suffer too?
The Post's ombudsman expressed surprise that so few readers told the paper what they thought about the change. And he noted that only 10 cancelled their subscriptions over the redesign. An editor at the paper suggested the reason may be because people are receptive to change.
I'll offer a different theory. How about this? We feel beat down and worn out by the changes and rather than wage an impossible battle, we disengage and give up. We bitch on Facebook or at parties. We yell at our spouses at the breakfast table, "Do you see what they've done now? Can you read this? I can't read this. WHAT'S ANOTHER WORD FOR CRAP?"
And we consider canceling the paper.
It breaks my heart to say it, especially because I want my four young children to continue to see the paper around the house. To point out their president - "Look, it's Bak Bama." To ask questions about photographs and words. To wonder about stories Kent and I talk about.
A few weeks ago, I walked into the kitchen where Josephine had the paper spread out before her. "I'm the Mommy," she said. "I read the newspaper."
Sadly, that may not be the case any longer.