Private Eye | Bye-Bye, Yellowjackets: Don’t fit the demographic? No news for you, Buster. 

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First things first: Last week, I offered up tickets to all of BYU’s home football games to anyone asking for them. They were gone in less time than it took our military to capture Baghdad, not only exhibiting the value of those tickets but also the rapid reaction time of City Weekly readers. So, thanks to everyone who tried, but only six couples will be able to plant their fannies high in the south end zone of LaVell Edwards stadium this coming football season. I’d join them myself, but to be honest, I don’t particularly care for BYU football. I only like their ticket office.

In no particular order, the tickets are being sent to Thad for the UNLV game, Seth for New Mexico, Cody for Wyoming, Lance for Northern Iowa, and Travis for Utah State. That leaves the only game against anyone of note at BYU this year, UCLA, the team nearly everyone requested. Bad Bill of Magna is going to that game. I can trust him to root for the Bruins, as he has much in his favor: He’s a Ute fan, he’s from Magna (a town I frequently disparage, but lovingly so) and he worked, as I did, on the track gangs in the Bingham Canyon Kennecott mine in the 1970s. In his request, he noted that I was on one of the “high falootin’” college gangs. That’s true, and though I don’t know if we ever spiked rail together, I can vouch that everyone I ever met on the college gangs were Ute fans. The world was once perfect.

There were at least another 20 requests for tickets by the weekend. Although I don’t have additional football tickets, I’ll make sure each of those who also sent me a home address will get a coupon or certificate of some kind from City Weekly. I think I can still do that. Not only am I uncertain of my authority to make such a decision, I’m not sure that such a request is even economically feasible in these terribly challenging times for newspapers. Which leads to the next item.

Second things second: Among the obituaries in today’s morning newspaper was this one: The free Buzz, one of the adjunct publications published by MediaOne (formerly the NAC, co-owned by The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News), will print its final issue this Friday. Such a loss. When it first came out, I gave it a look, then once again about a month later, only to discover the obvious: Both issues were constructed from the same cookie cutter. If you aren’t a mass-transit rider, you likely never saw the Buzz, which was primarily hand-distributed at TRAX stops in downtown Salt Lake.

I’ve watched the yellow-jacketed Buzz distribution team hand out the paper from my office window since Day 1. I honestly can’t remember a time I saw even one TRAX rider make a single sideways stride to pick up an issue. If a yellowjacket (Yellowjacket. Buzz. Get it?) put one right in front of someone, they might take it; if not taken, that paper likely ended up in one of the Tribune or Deseret News street racks disemboweled of its coin slots to distribute Buzz for free to passersby. I didn’t see people take them from those racks, either.

Brent Low, MediaOne CEO, described the decision to shutter the Buzz as a difficult one because it “had good readership and, when you have good readership, you have a good vehicle for advertising.” Apparently, no one told him that if you handed out the Ebola virus, TRAX riders would pick up that, too. In their mad scramble to return to the days when making money in the daily newspaper business was easier than choosing between jam or jelly, major newspapers have lost sight of the difference between a “reader” and “readership.” MediaOne is no exception. A reader seeks out this or any other newspaper for its particular content. A readership is a measurable and stable demographic. You don’t fit the demographic? No news for you, Buster.

Instead of lamenting the loss of an important (or not) news hole or the gaping (or not) void in the level of community awareness, Salt Lake Tribune Editor Nancy Conway once again parroted the Dean Singleton bottom-line dollar approach by saying, “If the economic situation changes, and we certainly hope it will, we can bring it back out.” You’ve been warned, TRAX riders. I’ve only been doing this for 25 years and still don’t know a damned thing about the newspaper business, so I’ll defer to the great wisdom over at MediaOne. But I still have a question for them: If the economic situation changes (presumably upward) why don’t you just hire a few more people to report the news instead of redepositing it in a different sandbox? Meanwhile, quit all that newspaper doomsday crap over there, OK? It’s pretty clear all you’re doing is prepping MediaOne employees for the next budget axe.

Outside that I hear we both wear cutoffs to work and that we both put raw eggs in our beer, the only thing Dean Singleton and I have in common is that we’re both in debt. I must be missing something. An upward economic situation should mean more revenue for MediaOne. More revenue could mean more reporters. If they didn’t resurrect the Buzz, they would gain reporters without the additional production and distribution costs—plus no printing bill, either. At most business schools, that means a better “core” product with a better bottom line. But watch. Not only will they either bring back the Buzz or try their economic darts on a different demographic, they’ll try to bring back the measles, too.

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