Chris Powell, the managing editor of the local Connecticut newspaper the Journal-Inquirer, has an interesting theory as to why nobody wants to buy his newspaper anymore. It’s not the Internet’s fault, Powell wrote in an op-ed in his own newspaper this week. Single moms are to blame:
Even in a supposedly prosperous and well-educated state like Connecticut, how strong can demand for [the news] be now that half the children are being raised without two parents at home and thus acquiring developmental handicaps; 70 percent of community college and state university freshmen have not mastered what used to be considered basic high school skills; poverty has risen steadily even as government appropriations in the name of remediating poverty have risen steadily; and democracy has sunk so much that half the eligible population isn’t voting in presidential elections, 65 percent isn’t voting in state elections and 85 percent isn’t voting in municipal elections?
. . . Indeed, newspapers still can sell themselves to traditional households — two-parent families involved with their children, schools, churches, sports, civic groups, and such. But newspapers cannot sell themselves to households headed by single women who have several children by different fathers, survive on welfare stipends, can hardly speak or read English, move every few months to cheat their landlords, barely know what town they’re living in and couldn’t afford a newspaper subscription even if they could read. And such households constitute a rising share of the population.
Perhaps these illiterate, ignorant, felonious welfare queens aren’t buying Powell’s newspaper because they do not actually exist. Despite Powell’s assertion that a “rising” proportion of single-parent families have killed the newspaper industry, several of the social ills he identifies are not, in fact, escalating. The U.S. illiteracy rate has not budged in 10 years. The U.S. poverty rate did rise during the recession — to about the level it was in 1993. Other claims in Powell’s piece — that single mothers can hardly speak, “barely know what town they’re living in” and are single-handedly imbuing their children with “developmental handicaps” — are too made-up to refute. (If Powell had properly optimized his op-ed for publication on the Internet, perhaps he could have provided links to his sources?)
Here’s an alternate theory: Nobody wants to read Chris Powell’s newspaper because it is the worst.
Amanda Hess is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. She blogs for DoubleX on sex, science and health.