Sunday, September 4, 2011

A question of priorities -- and losing readers

Don't take this as a criticism of Duane Dudak, the very hard-working TV and movie critic for the Journal Sentinel. Instead, it's a commentary on the times and, in my view, one huge reason the JS is losing subscribers.

While a new TV season isn't quite as big as it was when the four networks ruled, it is still a time when people change their habits, building their lives around new, interesting-looking television shows. It was a huge time of year two decades ago with the old Milwaukee Journal devoting not only more than a page in the Sunday paper, but huge stories daily giving readers not only a good overview of the new season but show by show reviews. Back then, the Journal alone had two full-time television writers along with one full-time movie critic. Duane carried the load alone for the Sentinel, but his season preview was pretty comprehensive.

These days, it's back to Duane handling the job single-handedly and the result showed up in today's JS -- a listing of show premiers with only a sentence or two for new shows. Can I plan my fall's viewing from this? Not really since I don't know if any of the new shows interest me. (For example, " 'Up All Night,' sitcom about new parents with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett; "Free Agents," romantic comedy about mismatched co-workers, with Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn (NBC)" tells me almost nothing.)

As I said, it's not Duane's fault, but the money-pinching management moves to cut staff and paper use have eliminated so much content that it invites readers to go elsewhere. And I have to question their judgement. A new television season deserves at least as much space and effort as one story in the never-ending series of Asian carp invasion stories.

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