Albion Monitor

"I don't want to read a newspaper on my computer. Don't you have a version on paper?"

Smearing ink on dead trees is pretty darn inefficient

Every day, we hear some variation on this same question. Sorry, no; there is no paper edition of the Albion Monitor, and there never will be one. After you read this, we hope you'll agree that it's a good idea.

One reason is obvious: smearing ink on dead trees is a pretty darn inefficient way of delivering information. Wood is too valuable a resource to waste in a newspaper that's read once and then recycled. Which often leads to another question: "Couldn't you use recycled paper?" The answer is the same: no. Besides requiring hazardous chemicals to remove ink, enormous quantities of industrial waste are created by the manufacturing process. A better solution is to eliminate paper altogether. It's time for us to realize the value of a newspaper is the information it contains, not the paper it's printed on.

Environmental concerns aside, it's also an expensive way to get the news. The actual cost to produce your daily newspaper is over twice what you're paying by subscription rates. Who makes up the difference? Advertisers. Large companies and corporations eager to sell you the stylish fashions, sporty cars, lifetime health club memberships.

In theory, it's a great deal for everyone. The price of your morning newspaper is kept (relatively) low; the advertiser reaches its customers; the publisher makes enough to keep the doors open.

But in practice, the system stinks. The newspaper must devote more and more space to advertising as production costs rise, and the swimsuit and fitness ads crowd out the space for news. It becomes harder to find room for in-depth features to explain complex topics. Your assignment: explore the conflict behind the Chiapas uprising--and make it fit within 20 column inches. It's no surprise that many events are only covered superficially, and other important stories are ignored. Advertising takes priority.

A newspaper exists to serve the community

In a recent Internet forum, one reporter noted that the "soul" of most newspapers has disappeared as the "...'Wheels' and Real Estate sections have slowly dissolved the lines between editorial and advertising." For journalists, it has also created an ethical dilemma: do you risk printing a story that will offend advertisers who pay the bills? Often, the editor must ignore "sensitive" topics. When was the last time you read about child-labor in the garment industry, for example? How about an investigative story on used car dealerships? An analysis of how much that new shopping center will cost taxpayers in hidden costs?

We believe that a newspaper exists to serve the interests of the community, not the advertiser. We believe the only way we can avoid the inherent ethical conflict is to proudly refuse commercial advertising. And the only way we can afford to do that is to publish as an electronic newspaper.

We are also certain that perhaps in as little as five years, your daily newspaper will be delivered through your telephone lines, exactly like this. The cost of newsprint is one reason; another is that we can offer features impossible in a regular newspaper. Articles may run for thousands of words, if need be; there are no space restrictions. If appropriate, we can provide "links" to other material on the Internet related to a particular topic. You can easily save a favorite article on your personal computer, or e-mail it to a friend on the other side of the globe.

But without your support, the Albion Monitor won't exist. If you have friends in Sonoma or Mendocino counties who want to join the Internet, tell them about Monitor Publishing. We rely upon income from this side of our business to underwrite the newspaper. If you have friends outside the area who want to read a progressive weekly newspaper, tell them to e-mail and we'll send them information.

We use the name Albion to remind us that we are all visitors, here in Eden.

Finally, a word about our name. Monitor is an old-timey newspaper name, like Guardian, Sentinel, Observer, and many others. As our logo shows, it means, "we're watching."

As the first Europeans to visit Northern California, Sir Francis Drake and his crew landed near Point Reyes on July 17, 1579. Drake called the country Nova Albion, and commented upon the beauty of the land and the nobility of the people who lived here, "free from guile or treachery." He stayed for less than a week, then left. Unfortunately, the Europeans who followed in the next four hundred years did not share his respect for the land or the people. We use the name Albion to remind us that we are all visitors, here in Eden.

Jeff Elliott, Editor

Albion Monitor August 19, 1995 (

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