Goodbye, Better Image

Three and a half years ago – during the great negative-scanning project of 2010 – I paid a visit to Better Image, the last surviving photo shop in Champaign-Urbana. At the time, I said:

I could be wrong – I hope so – but I suspect in a few years we’ll read about him in the newspaper: Last photo shop in town closes; owner retires after 50 years in business.

I was half-right: Better Image is closing, sometime next month; but the local fishwrap declined to publish an article about it.

Instead, they elected to bury it in an article about another local business:

Jon’s Pipe Shop, which has been at 509 E. Green St. for more than 50 years, plans to relocate Nov. 1 to the Better Image Film Lab building at 44 E. University Ave., C, after that business closes in mid-October.

(I did a bit more rummaging around amongst the archives, and found a photograph whose caption announced Better Image’s imminent closure. So they didn’t ignore it completely.)

I’m a bit disappointed in the local newspaper. They’ve finally figured out that delivering news once a day on dead trees is a 20th-century business model, and an express route to 21st-century bankruptcy; but their attempts to modernize aren’t going so well.

They put up a paywall on their web site, so readers have to answer survey questions before receiving the requested article. These were annoying, until I mastered the art of clicking randomly on them without reading the questions. I wonder how many other people are doing that, and whether the publishers realize just how contaminated & useless their survey data actually is.

They have an RSS feed, to which I subscribed long ago; but that’s pretty annoying as well.

The RSS feed is about three-fourths high-school / college sports articles, which are of exactly zero interest to me. I suspect their preponderance is because sports fans are more likely to subscribe; soon enough, the publishers will be dropping actual news to make room for more sports coverage.

Of the remaining quarter, about half are letters to the editor. The letters chosen for publication are, almost without exception, written by idiots and/or crackpots, barely coherent & not worth reading. I think this is because the editor is a staunch conservative, trapped in a town of liberal-minded college folk, and can’t bear the thought of presenting any of his (her?) ideological enemies in a positive light.

That leaves about one in ten RSS items as actual, possibly-worthy-of-my-time news. And they expect me to reward their miserable signal/noise ratio with cash?

Don’t hold your breath waiting for that, News-Gazette.

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