(Cartoon by Jerry Wallace)
V I E W P O I N T S
Last week, The Dade Planet's readership numbers rocketed! Thousands of people, it seems, are interested in whether or not they are being poisoned through their drinking water (imagine that!), and several other Planet articles previous to and following the chromium-6 story also got good response. I felt Discovered!
Then yesterday, a smart attorney I ran into at Dade Superior Court said as we exchanged
pleasantries, "I sure do miss your writing."
Of course I thrust a business card into his hand and told him not to miss it, to read it in THE DADE PLANET. But it wasn't the first time this had happened. Another man I was talking to recently at a Trenton City Commission meeting, also seriously smart, asked me if I ever did any writing these days. I was hollow-eyed from pouring my heart and soul into The Planet morning and night, and probably responded grouchily.
What, I wondered, did these intelligent community members think I was doing with my little notebook and camera at all these places I turn up, sitting through government meetings boring enough to kill elephants, getting bullied by court bailiffs, cold-shouldered by cops and chased by landowners shouting GIT OFF MAH PROPITTY? Maybe they figured I'm just trying to establish insanity as a basis for receiving Social Security disability?
(For the record, I once briefly considered this as a career path but my plan then was to urinate matter-of-factly in the frozen food aisle at Ingle's.)
Maybe the reason they failed to notice The Dade Planet's emergence as Dade's premier local news source is that they don't "do" Facebook. Because The Planet is online only, the way Planet articles mostly get passed around is through social media.
But whatever the reason, and however much better readership numbers are looking than when I started in February, I have to face the fact: incredibly, there are people walking around in the world who have somehow not heard about The Planet. How do I fix that?
This morning I was talking with a very funny man named Jerry Wallace about that and here is his suggestion: Make myself a Planet costume and dance around in it at the intersection of highways 11 and 136 like the Liberty Tax "wavers" during tax season, holding a sign that says READ DADEPLANET.COM.
It's not a bad idea. If people dancing around in green tablecloths and Statue of Liberty tiaras can convince Dade Countians to pay hundreds of dollars to Liberty Tax, maybe the Planet costume would impress them enough to read my newspaper for free. The thing is, though, I don't have the time. Between writing the local news and trying to sell ads, I'm lucky to eat and take the occasional shower.
So we discussed the alternate idea of me wearing the Planet suit to news events I cover and meetings I attend. Possibly the grocery store. Would folks stop taking me seriously as a journalist? (And I would know that how?) We then died laughing at how people would react: Astonishment and delight? Or: "Pardon me, ma'am, your planetary rings are poking me in the ass"?
Well! I've got a lot of nerve but not that much, and in any case I'm not much good with the needle and thread; so realistically I don't think I'll be dressed like Saturn any time soon. But the discussion with Mr. Wallace led me to do an incidental thing:
(A) Republish the essay I wrote in 2015 about Liberty Tax. This is about the time of year Liberty starts recruiting unpaid employees to help it cheat the poor and frustrate the government's attempts to improve their lot. If you're interested, you can access that piece from further down on The Planet's front page, or via the Navigator bar above, by clicking Editorial/Contact.
And a more important thing:
(B) Write the following long-needed user's guide to The Dade Planet, clarifying how the newspaper is meant to be used. I hope readers will not just take it to heart but share with the uninitiated and thus help spread the word.
Point 1: It's a newspaper. READ THE FRONT PAGE!
From conversations I've had with readers, you might well be reading this article and thinking that's all there is to The Dade Planet. From a Facebook page the story was shared on, you followed a link that led you right here, where you see a solitary post under The Planet's masthead. You don't realize that you can go to the FRONT PAGE, as if you were reading a print newspaper, and see headlines for other news and feature stories, announcements of coming events and a list of recent deaths in the communities with links to obituaries when you click on the deceased name.
You can go to the front page by clicking HOME in the black Navigator bar under the masthead. You can get there by typing dadeplanet.com into the top bar of your browser, or by bookmarking the Planet homepage as a Favorite.
However you get to the front page, DO GO TO THE FRONT PAGE! People are always calling The Planet "your website" or "your blog" and that hurts my feelings because in my mind it's a newspaper. Not to pick any fights I would argue it has as many or more features of a "real" newspaper than anything else I see in the vicinity. Anyway, newspapers have important things on the front page and The Planet is no exception. Check the front page frequently for news updates, public meeting times, fun things to do around the community, and of course death announcements.
Point 2: Navigate The Planet
One of the advantages of online newspapers is that articles don't just go away. You can read something you missed last month almost as easily as you can a new front-page article, and without shuffling through a pile of age-yellowed, coffee- or cat pee-stained newsprint.
How? I'm always working on new ways to organize the articles, but many are easily accessible from the Navigator, the black bar below the masthead. To read old Bob's Little Acres, for example, or editorials, just click on the appropriately labeled section of the Navigator.
If you want to read past investigative pieces, or catch up on one of the serialized fiction series, click Series in the Navigator and you will find sublists for investigative and fiction.
Another way to find older article is to click Archive in the Navigator. That takes you to a list of articles sorted by month. Click on the month, then the article you want.
You can also look back chronologically through the articles by going to the bottom of the front page and clicking the numbers there for previous pages.
And if all else fails, there's always Google. (What did we do before Google?) If, for example, your friend told you that Adolph Hitler had once written an advice column, and you opined that your friend was on drugs, all you'd need to do to settle the bet is type HITLER ADVICE COLUMN in the Google search bar, and it will take you right to THE DADE PLANET where Der Fuhrer doled out his pearls of wisdom.
Point 3: Contribute to The Planet! Write for The Planet! Participate in The Planet!
I did not mean to write The Planet all by myself. I would love to publish letters to the editor or for that matter guest opinion columns. I welcome local history accounts. I beg for news tips. The Planet is the only newspaper I know of that publishes fiction and has solicited writers of same for contributions. And I have done everything but lie on the ground and show you my belly for an advice columnist. How do you reckon Hitler got in?
If you have anything to contribute, call me or email me at the number or address pubished on the front page of this newspaper. This could be the beginning of YOUR exciting career in journalism!
Point 4: Save The Planet!
Do you have a small business to promote or a message to get out? Online newspapers don't cost as much to publish as print newspapers and you can advertise in them at a tiny fraction of what you'd pay a paper-and-ink rag. If you like reading The Planet, the surest way to keep it coming is to buy a display ad. Go to Advertising in the Navigator for our rates, or see the front page for examples of our most modest deals.
Point 5: Tell yer maw, tell yer paw
Now that you understand The Planet is a local newspaper, carrying area news, features and fun stuff to read--what other local publication has stories about local characters, investigative journalism and serialized fiction, along with the usual bread-and-butter gummint-cops-and-courts news?--and that The Planet is easily accessible by typing dadeplanet.com into your browser, and that you should check the front page regularly for important updates, please immediately go out and tell everyone you know!
Share Planet articles, including this one, on Facebook. Post them on any community news boards. Tweet them. Talk about them in church. Pack them in your chid's lunchbox ....
Well, there's a point in every article when it becomes clear it's time to end and I think we just hit it. I will shut up now. But I hope you will help me get the word out about THE DADE PLANET, and I will leave you with this disturbing question:
Do you really think your commute from work would be enhanced by seeing somebody dressed as Saturn fighting for turf with somebody dressed as the Statue of Liberty in front of the Ingle's every day?
I didn't think so.
Link to Liberty Tax article