Newspapers, local newspapers, might attract more readers if they provided more historical context with breaking news stories.
The other day, my friend Roj (pronounced "rahhj") asked me, why don't any reporters write a story about billboards? He brings up billboards a lot, now that I think about it. "We've got them, but they're a blight. They all seem to be owned by Clear Channel & Viacom. Just how much revenue do they generate for the city?" He continued with several bullet points of questions he'd written out onto a three by five card (listed below fold). Then he always mentions a picture book with photos of billboard-peppered areas coupled with twin photos with the billboards photoshopped out.
I asked my friend, is there something new about billboards that you've noticed? No, he said, he's had these questions since moving into his neighborhood ten years prior. A well-educated friend, who even majored in broadcasting, he didn't recognize the missing currency element from his news story idea (he's been out of college for a while.) But he wanted to know, damnit, how do billboards work? I think a lot of people want to know more about how their towns and cities work. But unless something works in a NEW way, it's not news-worthy, is it?
Later I walked down the Mid-Market section of San Francisco and happened upon an art gallery with a historical photo display of that very downtown section.
The photo collection titled "The Forgotten Mid-Market" showed a lively street dotted with theater signs and filled with pedestrians. "The decline of Mid-Market," the placard said, began in the 1970s. The reasons for said decline: declining movie attendance; the upheaval of businesses due to BART subway construction; demolitions of Fox theater in 1961 and Paramount theater in 1965; and, this one really caught my eye, a "1967 'beautification' law that removed the street's colorful signage, historic marquees and facades."
Now. Signs, marquees, and billboards are not all the same thing. But. I thought this significant - Roj is not the first to be obsessed with visual pollution. And. Unintended consequences, you know, abound and all that.
So. I think...if newspapers could sneak mini history lessons into their reports, that might be a good thing. Not only good for readers, which it would be, but comforting, something readers would like. Because - how better to navigate this plethora of overloading new info - than to have context anchors. Anybody with me? And if newspapers can't do it...there must be a way to sneak history into our lives. Somehow.
Billboards (by Roj)
We've got them, but they're a blight. They all seem to be owned by Clear Channel & Viacom.
- Just how much revenue do they generate for the city?
- Why are some places allowed billboards. Is the property owner renting the space to Viacom or does Viacom own the billboard area itself?
- Who is Viacom paying, the property owner or the city?
- different rules for different neighborhoods. Meaning, is density and content different for each part of the city. (Remember there are certain areas with far more liquor/beer ads than others.)
- Who regulates this stuff. Board of Supervisors? Mayor?
- Side note: some of these things seem to be slapped on the side of regular houses. Example 10th/Irving.
- Are contracts renegotiated often or are they just passed on every year?