Reality television has been blamed for a coarsening of society, the death of (well) scripted programming and my reason for being.
It's also playing a role in the disappearance of the Orange County Register.
No, this is not another post about the financial woes of Freedom Communications, the Register's owner. This has to do with the theft of actual stacks of papers from local newsracks.
North County Times, a San Diego county daily that circulates just on the other side of Orange County's southern border and has also been stung by disappearing newspapers, has the scoop.
The very economic forces that have led not enough people to subscribe or buy newsstand copies of newspapers created a spot on the TLC/Discovery Communications cable television schedule for Extreme Couponing, a new reality show that teaches bargain hunters how to collect and use food coupons.
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Producers of the show, whose first season ends today, do not endorse newspaper thefts, of course. But, by encouraging people to gather as many Sunday newspapers as they can has resulted in the phenomenon anyway. Besides the Register and North County Times, newspaper companies in Utah, Iowa and New York have noticed copies disappearing from boxes without the requisite change for each one having been deposited in the coin slots.
The article reports:
In one case at the Register, a woman returned an armload of papers for more because, she said, they didn't contain inserts. She was seen in her car pulling out the inserts after she traded in the old stack.
"People (clerks and vendors) are telling us the papers are incomplete, with the coupons gone," said Larry Riley, senior vice president in charge of circulation at The Orange County Register.
And so, the Register and these other publishers find themselves in the unusual position of discouraging newspaper pickups. They'd better start installing those surveillance cameras over their racks now: to the delight of its more than 2.1 million viewers, Extreme Couponing was renewed for a second season last week.