The Whole Newspaper Thing

newsI cannot remember a time when my family did not subscribe to a print newspaper. My parents took both the morning and evening papers in Wilmington, Delaware — where I grew up. I learned about work, responsibility, and earning money as a paper boy delivering the morning edition.

I went to college with the intention of becoming a journalist. I became one.

I went to graduate school with the idea of escaping journalism, but in the end I could not. I became a journalism professor.

Last week my wife and I stopped subscribing to the print edition of the Springfield News-Leader. We became digital subscribers.

Two things kicked us into this 21st century decision:

  1. Between delivery problems and theft, we just could not count on picking up the paper in front of our loft building each morning — especially annoying on Sunday given our additional subscription to The New York Times .
  2. It’s frustrating to open a morning paper (that you paid for) and realize you read everything the day before by following links on Facebook and Twitter.

That second reason is particularly interesting in terms of journalism. It raises questions about what the content of a print edition ought to be. If it merely reproduces what we read online, it seems to me a recipe for failure of the print product. We can certainly discuss that in terms of sustainability, i.e. perhaps print ought to be re-imagined as a medium problematic to the needs of a society that must begin managing resource limits.

We have a new Sunday morning routine now. We stroll to the Bistro Market to buy the Sunday papers — the only print we will have in the loft (and can be sure will make it to the loft).

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Comments 8

  1. Michael wrote:

    No newspaper here.

    I grew up in a house that got two, a weekly paper for our small town and a daily paper from near by Tacoma, WA.

    But, now most content is available online and it’s more convent and seems less wasteful to read it there.

    Also, I’ve recently moved and I’m not connected to my new place like I was in places where I have lived previously, so I don’t feel the need to stay up on things like I did before. Maybe if I stick around that will change.

    We have a bi-weekly arts magazine that I read, but that’s also mostly online and mostly I just check the “what’s going on” section.

    Posted 14 Sep 2014 at 9:31 am
  2. Tom Armstrong wrote:

    We have a daily paper here in Louisville, Kentucky, called the Courier-Journal. It is a “once great newspaper,” a snarky spin on the ad campaign at the time the Louisville Times (published by the same family) stopped circulation in favor of one daily paper. Not long enough after the merger, the paper was sold to the Gannett company, and the quality of both reportage and copy editing at the Courier has been on a downward spiral ever since.

    I refuse to pay for an online subscription, given that there are rarely any really well-written articles on things important to me (much of the reporting efforts are spent on the sports pages, and that section only rarely mentions cycling). That the news articles cover less than a quarter of the computer screen, with ads for products that are of no interest to me covering almost all the rest, tells me that the paper is making enough on advertising that it can afford for me to read only what is of interest to me.

    Ethical behavior on my part? Maybe, maybe not. I remove the sites cookies from my browser on a regular basis, which gets me around their “trial read” policy in the main. If the paper wants me to subscribe, it would need to address several concerns I have with their web site. I have let the editors know this (using a different browser, of course), but never got more than a “we have read your comments” response.

    Twenty-eight years ago, I subscribed to the print edition. After several weeks of having to call for “replacement” papers due to the carrier simply not delivering my papers, my scrip ran its course. The circulation department called me several times in effort to have me restart my subscription, and was told each time that doing so would express approval for the very poor quality of the delivery service. The contractor for my area apparently had some subcontractors, and apparently didn’t mind that the paper was charging for the two or three times a week that I was reporting not getting my paper. Nobody ever called me to ask how we–the carrier and I–could work out a more reliable way for me to get my morning paper.

    I realize that this wasn’t so much about journalism as about the contractor who did the delivery. Apparently, the paper wasn’t paying the contractors enough that it could find reliable ones in my area. Too much money going to the Gannett offices instead of staying in the local operation, I suppose.

    Posted 14 Sep 2014 at 7:07 pm
  3. Steve A wrote:

    The Seattle PI seems to have made the transition to “electronic only” fairly well. I get more than enough paper for fire starting purposes just from junk mail.

    Posted 15 Sep 2014 at 6:15 am
  4. Khal Spencer wrote:

    The Albuquerque Journal is one of the last decent papers in these parts, so we subscribe to support its continued existence and so we have some faint notion of what is going on in these parts. The funny thing is how different people read the paper. I make the morning pot of Joe and read it online. My wife doesn’t consider that she is reading a paper unless she is holding the hard copy.

    To conserve resources, we share the paper with our neighbors, who subscribe to a different local paper. That way we both get them all but not duplicate copies.

    I also pay for an electronic subscription to the NY Times. Not trying to swell your head, Andy, but AFAIC, journalism needs to be an art and science that is respected as well as remunerated.

    Posted 15 Sep 2014 at 9:03 am
  5. Andy Cline wrote:

    It’s interesting the various reactions to the plight of newspapers … and telling how emotional it can be. I wouldn’t argue that there was ever a golden age of print journalism except to the extent that so many metro dailies are thought of as “once great,” and their loss is deeply felt. As anger. As disgust. As bewilderment.

    Posted 15 Sep 2014 at 1:24 pm
  6. robert wrote:

    If you still lived in the “suburbs” you wouldn’t have to worry so much about theft! Just kidding, Andy. : )

    Posted 17 Sep 2014 at 3:56 pm
  7. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert … No need to kid. That’s the truth 🙂

    Posted 18 Sep 2014 at 3:46 pm
  8. Steve A wrote:

    I checked Google trends to see how the Seattle PI has done compared to the Seattle Times to see how it has fared since it stopped its print edition back in 2009. NOT good news, though many former writers now have successful blogs of their own. Sort of like “Uncle Barky” in the DFW Metroplex.

    Posted 25 Sep 2014 at 9:37 am