Monday, January 09, 2006

R.I.P. Newspapers

A depressing article about the demise of newspapers here. Now clearly I'm biased on the newspaper thing because I sold my soul, ahem, work for one. But newspapers are really, really important. I mean, freedom of the press is built into the Constitution! Fine, so I sound like I'm preaching and maybe I am.

For the past few years, I have read The NY Times online because it's easier and faster and cheaper, but I still lust after the Sunday Magazine. That's right. I lust after the magazine, and whenever I can get a free copy of the Times, I take it and skim the articles on the front page (Ok, fine, the first thing I do is look for any glaring mistakes because it's fun to find mistakes in the newspaper of record) and read the opinion page and get my hands smudged with newspaper ink and put it in my bag and carry it around with me because it's a newspaper and I think that's valuable.

And I think the fact that despite TV and the Internet newspapers have been able to hold their own because there are at least some Americans who want real, solid news--not just entertainment and gossip--is a beautiful thing. And I think it is very, very sad that that may be a thing of the past. I heard a newspaper man say recently that he thinks newspapers won't be printed anymore, that they'll just be electroinic (which admittedly is nice in the sense that publishers threatening not to print your paper at 5 a.m. is less than fun). And I think that's sad.

I'm not a traditionalist, but I fail to see anything good in the demise of print media--in the exchange of facts and ideas that comes to us every day in the form of a newspaper. But then maybe I'm part of the problem--a person who loves the newspaper but doesn't pay for it.


At 1/9/06, 2:21 PM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

Come on, Elisheva. Just because it is printed doesn't mean it is real news. Real news means unbiased news. Today, I doubt you can find something like that. There is always a spin. This is the world we live in.

At 1/9/06, 2:35 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

I don't think that's true. There's this opinion that news has to be completely unbiased--and I think good newspapers and good reporters should strive for that, and I think they do--but once you take something you saw and put it down on paper, it's going to be biased. There are good ways to protect against bias and to limit bias--and again, good newspapers take these steps--but some amount of bias by default has to seep in.

It's not because journalists don't care, it's because it's impossible to avoid. Which words you choose, which words you don't choose, which details you include--all those things are part of good writing, but they're also biased by who the reporter is as a person, as a journalist, as an observer.

It's still news even if it's biased. That doesn't make it the best of news, and when bias becomes prevalent and blatant there's a problem, but I don't think we can reasonably expect complete lack of bias in anything.

At 1/9/06, 7:07 PM, Blogger Samuel J. Scott said...

Eli, I'm glad to be reading your blog again. (I was the convert blogger New Jew, and I've got a new blog now.)

As a newspaper publisher, I found your post interesting. Here are some random thoughts.

I doubt the printed newspaper will go away completely. The cost-benefit ratio is becoming so small that soon it'll be very expensive to print the newspaper. So I can see newspapers vastly increasing their subscription rates to make the physical newspaper an item that only the elite rich can afford. It'll be a status symbol. And this will offset the money lost from publishing for free, or cheap, on the Internet.

Then again, perhaps this won't be the case. Online advertising has yet to be profitable -- for anyone -- but someday it will take off. And when it does, newspaper websites might become profitable enough to keep print editions afloat.

Then again, few people our age read newspapers. The same type of people read The New York Times and watch NBC Nightly News: senior citizens. And someday, of course, they'll be dead. Because of the Internet, our generation is used to getting information quickly throughout the day. By the time a newspaper hits your doorstep, it's old. (See the Miner situation.) So maybe newspapers will die.

But I must admit: I still get the Sunday Boston Globe. During the week (but not on Shabbat), I get all my news from the Internet. But I make it a point to relax on Sunday mornings and go through the entire paper. (Well, most of it.) And I'm sure many people feel the same way.

So, I guess my point is: I have no idea what will happen, either!

At 1/9/06, 8:50 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

WWT, if you're a newspaper publisher, can you get me a summer job?? Do you have any useful advice for finding a newspaper job in journalism? Pretty please?

At 1/9/06, 8:58 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Down here in DC the big entertainment news last week was the closing of a rock radio station on the FM dial, the moving of a classical station to another channel, and the news station (akin to WCBS800 in NYC) to the rock station's frequency. Taking the news station's place at 1500AM will be "Washington Post Radio." Apparently the newspaper isn't making enough off of its print or even web (with extensive blogging) operations and must now enter a third realm of the communication market.

I agree with you though; newspapers will not go out of print-at least not for a long long time. Yes, people read the news on their BlackBerry's and PocketPC's and PalmPilots etc, but there's still nothing like walking around with a briefcase and the morning's paper, especially when it's the paper of record.

The print version is still the fastest way to skim or peruse the entire paper in the shortest amount of time; the web layouts are too cumbersome to see it all at once.

And how many times do you find yourself printing it off the web to save as a hard copy anyway?

And there's nothing like sitting down to the fat Sunday Times and picking out the sections or articles you plan to read that morning, or saving it for the afternoon or evening.

The net's great, but print is still paramount.

At 1/9/06, 9:05 PM, Blogger Samuel J. Scott said...

Eli: If you want, send an e-mail to me at the address on my Blogger profile. I'd be happy to give you whatever advice I can.


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