(Juneau Empire file photo)

(Juneau Empire file photo)

Opinion: Crime pays a lot better than newspapers

I used to think that publishing a quality paper, full of accurate, informative and entertaining news would produce enough revenue to pay the bills

Most everything pays better than newspapers. A lemonade stand in the winter, a barber shop at a convention of bald men, dry cleaning services for Carhartts — even canned farmed pink salmon at an Alaska street fair — all could be more profitable than running a newspaper.

I used to think that publishing a quality paper, full of accurate, informative and entertaining news, always taking care to spell everyone’s name correctly, would produce enough revenue to pay the bills. But after reading more about political campaign donations, I realized there is an easier way to raise money: Crime.

Not stealing directly, like robbing an ATM, jumping a prospector’s gold claim or bootlegging. Those are too risky of physical harm. And besides, they take too much work. After clocking in seven days a week for the paper, I’m too tired to carry out any crimes that require physical labor.

I think I have found the answer in Donald Trump.

Every time Trump is convicted of a crime, millions of dollars, tens of millions, pour in from supporters around the country.

In the days after he was found guilty of financial fraud in New York City in February, Trump’s campaign committee went to work actively soliciting donors to show their love and support for the convicted crook.

And in March and April, as it was clear that Trump would need to post a multi-hundred-million-dollar bond for the penalties and interest in the fraud case while he appeals the verdict, the candidate’s campaign committee and the Republican party opened the envelopes, downloaded the online clicks and answered the phone to collect millions more in donations.

Then in May, after he was convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to pay off a woman who said she had an affair with Trump, the fundraising haul totaled $28 million in just two days. And that only counts donations of $200 or more — smaller payments were not counted. The Trump campaign claims they raised almost $53 million, but we know his financial math is never to be trusted.

Anyway, reading about all the money that can be raised after committing a crime, I realized I am doing this newspapering all wrong. Forget the fair and accurate and trustworthy reporting — it doesn’t pay. Newspapers’ economic salvation rests in committing a crime and soliciting donations. Even better if convicted.

But what crime to commit in Alaska that could evoke public sympathy and donations. Certainly not poaching fish. Alaskans will put up with a lot of lawbreaking, but stealing fish out of a stream and threatening the health of the salmon run is not one of them.

Stashing liquids in a carry-on bag on a flight is a crime, but it’s too common of a violation to garner much sympathy — and donations.

Downloading pirated music is a crime, but that requires more IT skills than I possess.

Cheating on federal taxes is always popular and plays to public resentment over federal spending. But you have to show a profit to pay taxes, which eliminates a lot of newspapers in Alaska.

I struggled to think of the perfect crime, one that would produce public support and donations. Then it hit me: I’ll sneak aboard a state ferry without buying a ticket. It would be a victimless crime, no one gets hurt, and everyone is frustrated with deteriorating ferry service. Only one hurdle: It would require perfect timing to catch the one ferry a week that stops in Wrangell.

Larry Persily is the publisher of the Wrangell Sentinel.

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