The Newspaper

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”):

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.

Today's News is Tomorrows History

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.

crumpled newspaper

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

20 thoughts on “The Newspaper

  1. The industry is laced with challenges and you’ve outlined several of them quite succinctly.

    The ultimate challenge is this catch 22: People won’t support a paper unless it is a good paper. You can’t have a good paper without support.

    I personally know the publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat, Julie Moreno. She is a smart, concerned, hard-working person who wants to give Tallahassee a great newspaper. And she is struggling against challenges most people can’t even begin to comprehend.

  2. We also have the daily paper delivered, most is advertisements. At this time in my life I tend to be annoyed at all the waste sent to the dump and try to work towards digital. Digital isn’t quite the same, but it hopefully, saves in waste.

    • Saving on waste is definitely a consideration!! I have had to look at that in a different light during our current situation, since I am positive my FIL wouldn’t read the paper every day if he did not have a hard copy to hold. I guess 85 years on the earth gives you the right to insist on that! 🙂

  3. Great essay, Paula. I get a local paper, but I am troubled by many of the same issues that you raise. The number of journalists on the ground here in my city and in bureaus has dwindled, and more and more local work is produced by interns (paid, but still, an intern is not a reporter); the editorial desk has been slashed to ribbons, and the paper shows it; and the holes left by reducing staff producing content has been filled by syndicated and wire-service copy. It’s saddening and disturbing.

    • I agree, Bob. I think another piece of all of this is the onus being put on the journalists to amplify their own material via social media. On the surface, that’s in many ways a good thing (it makes them seem more accessible, for instance). However, does it blur the line between producing an objective, well-researched story and getting the word out that the story exists? Thanks for your comment.

  4. I am still a cover to cover guy, but then again I’m old school. However, since a lot of the info is stuff I have already ready I can breeze through a lot of it.

    I do think the newspaper print industry is in its death throes. I’ve seen the carnage at our local paper and it’s not a pretty sight.

    • Bill – no, it’s not. As you probably know, Tallahassee is small enough that any of us even remotely involved in communications have relationships with the local newspaper staff that often transcend “acquaintance.” Seeing competent, hard-working people having to cope with this type of thing is just hard to see.

  5. We changed from daily delivery to Friday-Saturday-Sunday. Mostly because the papers were going unread until the weekend. I must admit, I miss the daily paper. I hate reading news on-line. There just isn’t the quality or reliability common in print papers in years past.

  6. I kind of feel bad that I do not subscribe to the newspaper, I feel like my kids will never know Sunday funnies and seeing Mama & Papa at the breakfast table with the ‘news’. We do get our magazines, we’ve made the Rachel Ray magazine a family affair we all go over it together.
    XO

    • I hear you on that — the newspaper and the routine were such a big part of growing up for me! It is good that you are still exposing them to a print periodical … there’s still (to me) a little bit of magic in the physical written page (and pictures!). Thank you for your comment.

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