Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Roanoke Times deceiving the elderly?

This George Will column indirectly raises another issue I've pondered. Many newspapers, the Roanoke Times included, run different stories in their online and hardprint newspapers. As Will's column shows, the elderly are far more likely to receive the hardline copy. The more politically diverse and balanced world of news via internet is sometimes not accessible to them.

I once had neighbors in their 80's who relied entirely on the Roanoke Times and the evening news for information on the world outside our "hollow." They didn't have a computer. They didn't take news magazines. The only books in their home were a Bible, a few medical books, and an entire wall-shelf of Reader's Digests dated to the 1960's. They were frail and almost helpless as the elderly often are, determined to remain in their own home as long as possible. My wife and I helped when we could, but we both work and our old friends eventually moved out and died in a "retirement home."

When the Roanoke Times runs a headline like "Bush's Plan Will End Social Security," over a story, as it did recently, I think about my old friends. I remember how certain news upset or even scared them, and how they often didn't get the whole story. And I wonder if Mike Riley and his reporters take that into consideration when they select news stories and craft headlines? Surely they see old folks as something more than pawns in a war against Republicans?

Or do they?