Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Newspapers -- Relevant Or Outdated?

A Lady Reading a Newspaper
Carl Larsson

There was an interesting article by Jack Cafferty yesterday on CNN. He asked, "Would you notice if your daily newspaper disappeared?" At first, I thought, no I would not notice, and I would not care. I can get up in the morning, click onto any news outlet, including CNN, and get the up-to-date news, complete with videos and editorial comments, whenver I want. And of course there are the blogs...

And then Cafferty pointed out something interesting. ... News isn’t just a product; in a democracy, the press exists to investigate and criticize the government.

Well, okay, but that's not why most people read newspapers. We read newspapers to be informed, entertained and occasionally challenged. And the question is, with so many of us being accustomed to being online every day, are newspapers relevant anymore? And with the advent of Amazon Kindle, is the written word on paper becoming obsolete? The Kindle was initially designed for reading newspapers and texbooks. I still have mixed feelings about Kindle -- I love curling up with a good book, and falling asleep... Somehow that just would not be the same with a Kindle.

There was a time when I would go through actual withdrawal if I did not have my daily newspaper. The paper was delivered early in the morning, and I would read it when I was having my morning coffee. If the paper was not there on time, I was completely discombobulated and out-of-sorts for the rest of the day. I grew up in a home where we had three newspapers every day, and we read them from front to back. They were a source of information for everything -- news, current events, social events, entertainment, business, sports, finance op-ed, our favorite columnists, and even recipes. I still have some dog-earred recipes that my mother clipped from the newspapers. And if we wanted to know if "old-lady Rafferty" down the street was still alive, we would check the obits every day.

And then a few years ago something strange happened. I installed a home computer, and I found myself referring to my computer for everything, and my newspaper lay untouched and unopened on my coffee table. After about a week's collection of them piled up, they would go into the recycling bin. This would go on week after week until finally I did not renew my subscription.

What on earth was going on? I didn't understand it. I was bored, and my love affair with the newspaper was over. I just couldn't seem to re-Kindle (pun intended) any feelings for it. I try, but they're just not there. I still love books and magazines, however, and I could not be without my weekly New Yorker magazine. But newspapers somehow seem so -- 20th Century. Has anyone else felt this way about newspapers, or is it just me?


~Brittainy said...

I would probably not notice until Sunday when I couldn't find any coupons! Its sad really

Jo said...

Brittainy, and yes, I think I sometimes miss the crossword puzzle, but I can get my "fix" in other places. :-)

Owen said...

Haven't had a daily newspaper since moving to France in 1992; and I was prone to reading the Philadelphia Inquirer from cover to cover previously, but computers and the net took care of that... what was that old tune :
The Times they are a'changing... (no pun intended !)

Maureen said...

I'm actually one of the few humans left on the planet without a HDTV, I got the certificate to get the box to adapt my old TV but haven't found a place to buy one yet. Also, $40 is more money than I want to spend at this point so, forget the newspaper, I'm about to give up television, and I'm almost okay about it. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

I quit getting home delivery of the newspaper about 10 years ago. I have the last copy of the Rocky Mountain News sitting on my coffee table for history's sake, but that's the first time in years I've sought out a copy of the paper.

It was sad to see it go, however. Mostly because of more lost jobs which is what we don't need in this economy.

Russell said...

One of the highlights of my week is getting a copy of the New York Times. It is not easy to find in the middle of Iowa, but the big bookstores and some convenience stores have copies.

Sitting in my car, at my kitchen table or in my office and reading the Times is a great joy. I can't stand reading news on a computer monitor.

I confess I don't read the paper as much as I would like and sometimes it does not get read at all - but when I am in the right mood, there is nothing better than reading a quality paper like the Times.

It makes me sad to see newspapers becoming a thing of the past. Just because our life is becoming centered around computers does not mean I like it - and I don't... but I do know it is a reality.

VioletSky said...

As one who pays her bills by delivering the daily newspapers, the demise of the newspaper saddens me. Not just for the reduced pay I receive from the reduced subscriptions, but for the lack of information due to so many cutbacks that is put into the hard copy that makes some people feel a little bored with it and as a result turn to the on-line version. It is annoying (and was even more so when I didn't have a computer) to read an article, then be told to "go on-line for more information".

Recently The Globe decided to stop printing a TV guide, as has the National Post and another local paper. A HUGE uproar has resulted from people who don't want to go online to get listings without any analysis or descriptions of what is on offer.

I feel a post coming out of this... thanks, Jo!

Alissa Grosso said...

If you live in a major metropolitan area, newspapers probably are pretty irrelevant, but when you live out in the sticks, your local newspaper (and I speak from experience here) may be the only place to find out what is going on.

That said, I don't think the local newspaper necessarily needs to be something printed on paper. Just a few minutes ago I needed to look up the results of a local election, and the only place to find this information was in my local daily, but I didn't go out and buy a copy of the paper, I went to their website where I could read the stories. Advertising space is sold for their website just as it is sold for their print edition.

For truly local information: school board meetings, rummage sale announcements, kindergarten registration and upcoming local events, local newspapers still remain the best source, and in many cases the only source of this information.

I should point out that I might be just a teensy bit biased being an occasional writer for one of my local papers.

Pie said...

As a journalist, this makes me sad. If you stop reading newspapers, at least keep reading magazines please! But even I'm guilty of reading most of my news online.

I just hope the media develops a way to make a real profit off of the Internet so that journalists can get paid a proper paycheck!

Miss_Nobody said...

I would totally freak out,the computer screen doesn't really substitute the print media.I'm terribly fond of newspapers,the rustling sound and all that.

Anonymous said...

I love checking out the video clips that come with an online 'newspaper'source but don't tend to check it out regularly. Also love being able to follow all the links if I so choose.
I live in rural NSW Australia and I can read our local newspaper in 5 mins but when I stopped buying it, I suddenly found that I was really out of the local loop and that I had missed out on some great happenings as well. So it gets delivered again. We also get the Sydney Morning Herald, a monstrous size of a thing that is difficult to manipulate as it's the old 2xA3 broadsheet size! I mean, how inconvenient is that? However, I like the inclusions like the Tuesday 'Good Food Guide'- an excellent food appreciation and tips guide. The weekend magazine inclusions are also worthwhile getting, especially the book reviews.
My husband does all the crosswords and all the Sudoku in both papers each night as well as the other word games.
I also buy the Guardian Weekly, a UK newspaper for the far-flung empire. That's very good. Excellent articles.
My father has been subscribing to Time magazine for over 40 years and he sends us his copy each week.
However, I sit down each night and look at the ABC govt television station news.
Whew! I do expose myself to a lot of news sources.

the walking man said...

The difference between on-line news and newspapers to me is accountability. If there is an error of commission or omission there is a hard copy in the paper and either the writer or the paper or the subject can be held accountable.

On line the error or the spin can be constantly updated and edited. With the short memory of the public at large it is best to have a universal hard copy.

Marcella said...

I get your point but I still like our n newspaper delivered. Must check the obits. Like photographs - with the wonderful invention of the computer and digital cameras one supposedly wouldn't need hard copies but I still select the best and have them printed. It's much easier when other family members want to go through the albums rather than gather around a computer. Give me something tangible and light which you can read anywhere. You don't need a power point or a charged up battery.

robert said...

Being a student was when I read a papery newspaper regularly. Since finishing it is mostly radio and the internet, as I'm able to read only what I need to know, respectively what seems to be of interest (as there is nearly every newspaper of the world available online) and it is not so packed with advertisment, as the newspapers over here.

Nicole said...

I still love to have an actual newspaper. Sunday morning, cup of coffee and my newspaper. I can curl up anywhere and read. My favorite newspaper memory is my nine month old son "reading" the sale ads while I read the paper. It was the cutest thing, the area around him covered with sale ads.

Anonymous said...

I don't like to read the news on my computer. I love newspapers and would really miss them if they went away.

Katy said...

I don't get the newspaper at home. But I can read our local paper, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal at work for free so I don't feel like I am missing out on anything.

On the Kindel thing. I went through a short spell where I was afraid that the Kindel might take away books. But then I read a very good article by author Nick Hornby. He basically made the argument that when you have bargin bins full of books going unsold, why would you expect anyone to pay $400 for a machine that would let them read the same thing they didn't want for $5 in the first place?

So no, I don't think the Kindel is the next big thing, but I also think it will start to become a lot harder to get a book deal.

Leslie: said...

I love my daily newspaper and am currently receiving both our major issues. Plus the local one! Like Russell, I enjoy reading them cover to cover AND doing all the crossword and other types of puzzles.

Leigh said...

I only read the newspaper on Thursdays for the arrest records to see if anyone I know was arrested. How sad!

Dee said...

We get the Hartford Courant which is slowly getting smaller. maybe some day it will disappear entirely!I look forward to it every A.M.. Do the puzzles with my morning coffee. A friend has gifted me with the week end N.Y.Times which used to have a Connecticut section that is no more. The Sunday Magazine has the best crossword puzzle. I would miss newspapers.

Mary Ellen said...

Ok, on this subject I may be a little (read "lot") biased on this subject. My daughter is a newspaper reporter in New Hampshire and there is a huge difference between what you see on line and what you get in a newspaper.

As Cafferty pointed out (and I rarely agree with him) reporters are there to find the news, not just report it. They are the ones who find out which politician is taking the handouts, or which corporation is polluting the lakes and getting away with it.

Just recently, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune caught one of the Aldermen in Chicago using a police sticker on his car so he could park illegally in his district. Once it showed up in the newspaper, the Alderman removed the sticker (and at first tried to lie about it) but then conceded that he shouldn't have had it to begin with.

If newspapers continue to downsize, they will lose a valuable recourse, and we will lose the ability to have news instead of propaganda that is fed to the on-line news sources who are getting paid by corporations which are getting kick-backs from government politicians. (really, look at the way MSNBC, Fox News, or CNN report their news...nothing but bias.)

Also...what about all the senior citizens who don't have computers? What will be their news source? TV stations that are manipulated by politicians? What about the poor who don't have access to a computer in their homes? They can get a free newspaper from just about anywhere and this may be their only chance for a daily news source.

Anyway...I'm pro news PAPER, anti news blogs.

themasterpat said...

It's not just you Jo! I touched on this very subject w/one of my recent professional courses based on this article...http://www.rmmagazine.com/MGTemplate.cfm?Section=RMMagazine&NavMenuID=128&template=/Magazine/DisplayMagazines.cfm&IssueID=335&AID=3897&Volume=56&ShowArticle=1

Basically it wasn't that newspapers wasn't prepare for the 21st century (i.e internet), they weren't cost effective in the first place (i.e printing presses) and when companies (whose ads are papers' lifeline) found they can spread the ads over a vast medium such as the internet, they headed for the hills, and left the newspaper such to tell my nephew about!

Newspapers had a good run but it's now time to move on. I agree I love magazines though and they will continue to be relevant.

lovelyprism said...

I like the Sunday ads but that's about it. I've never been a big newspaper fan. It's unwieldy, you can't sit and read it like a magazine, it's too big. And the ink... well the ink is an obsessive-compulsive's nightmare!

Essie said...

I hope you don't mind me commenting to the bloggers who post Jo, If so please let me know. Brittainy: you can print out lots of coupons from the internet. There are many sites for them. iamcassandra: I am VERY concerned about journalists. Without journalists to go places and ask the questions we want to now about we are in the dark. As a society we should not depend on opinion pieces for our information. We need sound factual information that only professional journalists can get without corrupting it (too much). It is vital to a democracy. That said, I was at one point very attatched to my paper, but after taking environmental science in school I thought, that opening a paper with my coffee (I love the smell of it)is not so important, and I got my news elsewhere, it was a shift, but a good one in many ways. I did outgrow my paper, and I am looking forward to the Kindle. I think it will save a lot of trees, recycling costs, will be easier than bringing a laptop everywhere, and I think will be a fabulous tool when I am in college.

Patsy said...

I stopped reading hardcopy newspapers several years ago when I began getting my news online. It's so much easier to zip around and find stories and read the columns....... and no black ink on the fingertips... although I was pretty good about that and only held the very edges of the papers.


Paula Slade said...

Having written for several different papers over the years, I began to realize last summer that the handwriting (so to speak) was on the wall for the future of print journalism. Ad pages were dwindling at an alarming rate, and even I found myself, just as you did Jo, turning to my computer for the news (when I didn't have to be the one reporting it.) That's why I started blogging - basically to find out if this whole new approach to the printed word would feel comfortable. And, it did. I recently started to write for a national news organization and frankly I enjoy it! It's much faster paced, but so are the times we live in. I shall miss newspapers, but I believe that the news cycle is going through a rebirth of sorts and it will be interesting to see how it will be viewed a few years from now.

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