I like getting the newspaper every day. I like the ritual of looking for it in the darkend driveway, and plopping it down on the kitchen table. I read the the “funnies” last, holding off what for me is the most revealing part of the daily paper. That sense of anticipation doesn’t last long, though; I read the paper in about five minutes. You see, the daily newspaper is filled with nothing but ads of no interest and old news.
By the time it reaches my driveway my daily paper is out-of-date. When it comes to news, the electronic age has rendered the newspaper a quaint inky antique, hopelessly incapable of providing any up-to-the-minute news. I get my news from websites on my iPhone and iPad and even they are slow compared to Twitter. Of course, Twitter requires putting up with so much useless crap and self-promotion that I find it unusable. Call me old-fashioned, but my websites on my iPhone are quick enough for me.
In their time, newspapers were revolutionary and provided Joe Citizen with his window on the world. Of course, his window was colored by the editorial slant and intentions of the newspaper owner; freedom of the press has always belonged to the ones who’ve owned the presses. As a molder of public opinion, for a while the newspaper was as good as it got. They changed what people thought, mobilized masses and sent boys off to war. Multiple daily nickel-editions hit the streets with new and updated stories, newsboys hawking them on street corners literally yelling “Extra, extra! Read all about it!”
Electronic media changed all that. The rise of the telegraph and radio was the beginning of the end of the printed newspaper business, and one can draw a direct line between that early technology and the state of the daily printed newspaper today. The enlargement of human sensory awareness due to the internet is the logical extension of the dots-and-dashes which first conveyed information at nearly the speed of light and rendered previous notions of time and space irrelevant.
From a news perspective, the daily newspaper is nearly dead. In time nobody will pay for old news. It’s only hope remains in harnessing electronic information to a digitally connected piece of paper, and that will require yet another technological break-through. Of course, the demise of the daily paper not only means the loss of news, but more importantly the loss of journalism. Behind headlines is a deeper story, despite our current addiction to sound-bites, but journalism requires journalists, research, interviews, verifications, fact-checks, proofreaders, and legal review, and all that costs money. The loss of true journalism is the greatest of losses; an impoverished society is not one with no money, but one without truth.
Money has always been the engine of journalism, and newspaper money has reliably been provided by advertising. With the rise of new media, advertising money has shifted away from static forms like newspapers to dynamic online forms that track users’ viewing habits and customize the advertising accordingly. The “one-size-fits-all” model of advertising is nearly as obsolete as the notion of “news” being in a newspaper.
But I still plan to get my daily paper, and unless they all disappear I’ll still listen for the plop of the paper in the driveway. Besides, I need the newsprint to light the charcoal in my barbecue.