Wednesday, June 6, 2012
All The News That Is Fit To Print – Just Every Other Day
The newspaper industry is in big trouble. According to the New York Times, the revenue for newspapers across the country is half of what it was in 2005. The latest casualty: The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. It announced it will publish a print edition only three times a week and leave a reduced staff to post content on its Web site. Though I am a print fan and pray for the industry’s recovery, I think the tragedy besetting the newspaper industry means the following:
< Readership of newspapers, print or online, is dwindling, in part because of competing options for the reader’s time. But the option is not a competing news source or even an online news site. It is time spent on Facebook, Twitter, or some other place that isn’t informing the citizenry.
< Lack of a central source for community news means the town is less unified, less informed, and less protected against the politicians and businesses that prefer to run the town without a watch guard. Newspapers police the town. Who will take their place?
< People are getting used to the idea of not learning about what is happening in their city. They are disconnected in an era where we can be the most connected generation. Less informed people become less active. Society suffers for it.
< When newspapers hurt it hurts the book business. Newspapers are good places for book reviews, author interviews, and stories about the publishing industry.
I will defend to the end that print adds a certain depth to our experiences. Online does too. We need both dimensions to co-exist. If print dies, so does some of me – and you – whether we realize it or not.
So what is the solution? Newspapers need advertisers to exist and they need readers to get advertisers. But what is needed is some type of campaign that reveals the advantages and significance of the printed medium. We cannot argue for one (print) to exist over another (digital) or vice versa. We need to highlight how they complement one another. They need to merge together somehow.
It is not just a matter of reading preference that I desire a newspaper in my hand rather than a device, but it is the issue of what newspapers really do for us that needs to be discussed. They keep a city informed and honest. They also slow things down just enough to gain perspective. They reflect the news once every 24 hours rather than reporting throughout the entire 24 hours, the way their online cousins do. They give us time to reflect, to pause, and to examine the significance of the news. Online news changes too quickly, updated like a sports score. Sometimes we need a full day to pass and to let the news sink in before we can fully digest it. Otherwise we just drift from click to click, around the clock, with seemingly no beginning, no end. There doesn’t seem to be a unit of time online that allows for things to settle down.
Maybe I am a sentimental fool. Maybe I defend a dying art. But I know that life is better with newspapers in it. I just hope others realize this before it is too late.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.