I saw this prompt last month (from SITS) and decided I needed to respond to it. The newspaper has been such a big part of my life, from childhood to now.
Do you still get a newspaper delivered to your house? What role do you think daily newspapers play in today’s society where we have access to so many other forms of news 24 hours a day?
The answer to the first question, “Do you still get a newspaper delivered to your house?” is “yes, currently.” However, for quite a few years (the past five, perhaps?), we only got the “paper” paper on Sundays and got the digital version the other days. I think we did this is a cost-cutting measure, despite my years of saying, “I’ll never move from the ‘paper paper’ to digital … it just wouldn’t be the same.” When my father-in-law moved in with us in June, however, we discontinued his “paper daily” subscription at his home and moved it to our house, so we now get the “paper paper” every day as well as the digital version. He really enjoys getting a “real” paper daily, and he is one of those readers who would not be getting any access if he had to rely on digital.
The first question is easy; the second one is more complex. In all honesty, I believe the newspaper as the institution I grew up with is in its death throes. Much of the collapse of the “newspaper as institution” is a function of our ability to get real-time news (and opinion) via so many other avenues. For example, why wait to get a report of what happened at a City Commission meeting if I am immediately able to view the livestream, if attendees are live tweeting, and if I can follow the meeting’s progress via my various social media connections? (Granted, I am getting their portrayal, which is different than a professional journalistic opinion, but perhaps I am more capable of forming an analytical opinion than I previously thought possible.)
I do have an observation about the difference between “paper papers” and digital. I miss the “random news and tidbits” that a reader runs across when browsing a “real paper.” (And yes I know that is possible in to view a literal pdf of the newspaper (as opposed to the digital/web version), since that was just recently pointed out to me (hooray)). But if I don’t have paper to flip through, I’m not going to flip through the e-newspaper like I would the real thing. I think it is a true loss to read only the content we intended to read, in the same way that I think it is a true loss that we can now create our own playlists on Pandora and other providers, meaning we don’t ever have to hear a song we don’t prefer … I think back on music I discovered only because I was forced to sit through it as a part of a radio station program … sometimes is is fortuitous to be exposed to something you didn’t think you wanted in the first place.
We will keep getting the Tallahassee Democrat daily as long as my father-in-law is living with us, but I seriously doubt we will continue getting a daily paper version after he leaves our home someday. Here are a few reasons why:
Dilution This newspaper is not what it used to be. The addition of the USA Today material, and the general attrition of in-depth journalism is leaving me underwhelmed.
Quality The quality of the newspaper is declining. I realize the pressures they are under but when you stop attending to the quality of your product, you start losing me. I dislike typos, of course, but I especially dislike typos in obituaries. In a recent obituary, the gentleman must have been a “site manager” of his business. The obituary described him as a “sire manager.” On the day the Democrat announced its upcoming reorganization, the front page included this typo (“infront”):
Access This seems to have gotten better lately, but for years, every time I wanted to read something on the Democrat’s website, I had to go through so many contortions to prove I was a subscriber that I often gave up. If the product has become diluted and the quality has deteriorated, I won’t be struggling to read it.
This question elicited quite a few responses when I posted it on Facebook. Check out the opinions here.
Perhaps the reason I waited so long to write this post after seeing the prompt several weeks ago is the fact that although I feel confident in my opinion, I have connections to the people and the processes behind the “paper paper.” I have been a staunch advocate. I have been grateful when the Democrat published my Letter to the Editor and my Chronicle pieces. I think Bob Gabordi’s MOVE Tallahassee initiative is fabulous. I think Bob Gabordi was fabulous the day I called him on a Sunday afternoon in a panic because my mother-in-law’s obituary was not going to run the following Monday (due to series of communication errors between the funeral home and me about the deadline). I have been here since 1982 (except for the three glorious New York City years) and this seems like one of the most difficult changes to absorb in the life of our community. The Democrat has announced my children’s births (they don’t do that anymore),my engagement, my wedding, my children’s first birthdays. They have been as much a part of Tallahassee to me as live oaks and Downtown Getdowns.
I simply have my doubts.