Saturday, February 14, 2009

Making Me Feel Better

We're raising the prices on our obits here at the paper I work for. It had been ten years since we'd done something like this, so I know it's about time. Nevertheless, it made me uncomfortable. I don't like the idea of profiting from others' misfortunes. Still, a few things have made feel better about the idea:

According to my manager (to whom I expressed my pinko-commie concerns), because of estate planning or life insurance policies, most people are better off at the time of their deaths than at any other time.

We're an independent paper. Sure we're a corporation. But we're not part of a corporate conglomerate. A local family and many of the employees own shares in our stock. However, we're also struggling as a result of the poor economy and the information shift to the internet and free media. Raising the prices on our obits (and charging for some other announcements we'd previously offered at no cost) will provide us with instant (even if not hugely significant) profit that will hopefully alleviate a little of the discomfort we're having.

Also, by being an independent paper, we're still able to raise our prices without charging as much as some of the bigger, conglomerate owned papers in the region. So printing an obituary in our paper still won't cost nearly as much as it does at most comparable papers.

It's the second and third one that have my gears turning, as well as this article from TIME magazine (and some stuff I've been learning about how our international finance system influences our ability to create wealth, but that's for another post). What I'm coming to realize is that until we develop a better compensation system, we're going to have to learn to prioritize and be willing to pay a little more for the things that are important to us (i.e. keeping papers, grocers, builders, producers etc. local) on the bet that doing this will eventually make these things cost us less in the long run.

I'm far from living up to this standard in every aspect of my life. Finances are always tight in my neck of the woods, but certainly not as tight as some. But since I've been on my own and have been allowed to prioritize my money my way, I've realized that if I'm careful, I'm able to buy things that make me feel responsible environmentally/socially without breaking my budget. Do they cost me a little more? Yes. But I'm fortunate enough for now to be able to handle it and willing to make what small sacrifices (and in my case they have been small) I have to do this.

Anyway, back to our paper. I have my gripes about my workplace. I think everyone does.
Is it a business? Absolutely. Is it's goal to make a profit? Absolutely. But one thing I'm glad of is that we're still independent. The paper claims to and really does care about the community it serves. It functions in and depends on this community. So while I'm hesitant to charge more for what I feel should be a public service (in spite of my gripes about obits in general), I also feel that if our community values us as much as we're still able to value them ("we" being the paper, in this case) then hopefully they'll be willing to pay a little extra for our services knowing that we're still trying to treat them better than other places would.