Editor’s Column: Prepare to die, and read the fine print

If you’re reading this on Thursday, I hope we’ll see you tonight at the Meeker Coworking Center for our “Own Your Story” event. We’ll be sharing information about setting up a will, writing your own obituary (or someone else’s), cleaning up your digital life, and generally getting your affairs in order before it’s a crisis. Cost? $10. That’s cheap. Come early (6 p.m.) for the Blanco Cellars wine tasting. We’ll get started at 6:30 p.m. There will be handouts to take home, too!

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A Georgia school teacher recently purchased a travel insurance package for a trip to Europe. She actually read her insurance paperwork (who does that?). Lo and behold, she was awarded $10,000 for finding a clause in the fine print. The insurance broker’s website said, “”We created the top-secret Pays to Read campaign in an effort to highlight the importance of reading policy documentation from start to finish.”
That amounts to a lot of reading… like enough for a small novel… but for $10,000? Perhaps it’s time we stop clicking “agree” and start reading all that fine print again. Who knows what might be hidden in that contract?

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You might not think the newspaper industry has much in common with the energy industry, but we share a common bond: an overarching fear of the imminent destruction of our respective industries.
This is “Sunshine Week,” which annually highlights and reminds folks of the importance of keeping government transparent and open for citizens to document spending and decisions of policy and so forth. Sunshine Week occurs annually in March, coinciding with the birthday of Constitution author James Madison and National Freedom of Information Day.
This year’s Sunshine Week theme is a hard one, as it shines a light on the demise of thousands of local newspapers nationwide—nearly one in five (1,800) in the last 15 years. Loss of advertising dollars to digital, loss of subscribers, greedy corporate hedge funds, and bad examples of bad journalism set, primarily, by cable news TV—have created “news deserts” across the nation, where no one is reporting on local news, town hall, county government, etc. Those communities suffer, according to a 2011 Federal Communication Commission report, experiencing “more government waste, more local corruption, less effective schools, and other serious community problems.”
Reading through the statistics it’s easy to feel despondent.
What do you do when your industry is threatened with change? You adapt. You inform. You explain. You do a better job addressing fears and complaints. I think both the newspaper industry and the energy industry can do a better job of communicating what we do, how we do it, and why it’s important.

By Niki Turner | niki@theheraldtimes.com

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