Tag Archives: Newspaper

Goodbye to the Newspaper

When I was growing up, almost everybody took the local newspaper. Many cities had several competing newspapers, although Toledo’s two papers–one morning and one evening–were owned and operated by the same company.

Journalism is dead, having given way to commentary. Many newspapers are moribund. In my area, so few people subscribe to the actual news that the newspaper distributes a free weekly printing of advertisements. They probably copied the business model of the US Postal Service, which became a model of financial success when junk mail became their most profitable business.

Many papers already rely primarily on the wire services for their content, which means that in the morning paper you’ll see the same articles you read online the day before. With reliance on wire services–of which there are basically two–the entire nation receives the information as perceived by one writer. While I don’t like this, I must admit that it is an approach that has worked well for Vladimir Putin.

News is framed so as to attract everyone’s attention–in other words, it must be sensational or salacious–ideally both. This results in the media altering our perception. Travel by airplane, for example, is very safe, which is why an emergency landing on a highway with no injuries is considered nationally newsworthy and causes some people to perceive airplanes as dangerous. On the other hand, automobile accidents are so common that it must involve a self-driving vehicle, have a dozen or so fatalities, involve over 50 cars.

It’s sad that most people don’t want journalism because it requires readers to think. It’s easier to find some online source that reinforces their existing position and biases than to have to think and possibly change their minds occassionally.

Newspapers

When I was growing up,  it seemed that every city had several newspapers—often a morning paper and an evening paper. In Toledo, they were owned by the same company, so there was not a lot of divergence of opinion—the biggest diversity was in the comics.

In the 70s and 80s, many cities began to lose newspapers, only offering one. (I remember reading Sherlock Holmes—written during my grandparents’ lifetimes—in which there were multiple editions of multiple newspapers. Wow!)

Over time, in many places, local reporting waned and most of what they printed came from the news services to cut costs. (Sorry Peter Parker and Clark Kent, we’re not hiring.)

The number of news services dwindled as Associated Press overtook and bought part of United Press International. Today, much of what you read in the morning newspaper you already read online.

Newspapers got smaller, and the cycle continues.

Is it better or worse than when I was young? Probably neither—just different. However, I appreciate a well-written article. After it was written, the author probably re-read it and made some changes. An editor tweaked it—or sent it back to the author for another rewrite. Written news is polished, at least a little. It took a significant event to “Stop the presses!” and change the headline—an expensive operation.

A news video, on the other hand, has no style and certainly no cachet. It’s kind of thrown together, with too many stories labeled as “Breaking News.” To add insult to injury, the talking head’s intro, repartee, and smile, of course, is as much a part of the story as the content.

More’s the pity.

I think I’ll go listen to Don Henley’s “Get Over It.”

Breaking News – We’re Irrelevant!

dewey

In the 1970’s, Fleetwood Mac, on their “Rumors” album had a song in which Lindsey Buckingham sang, “I’m just second hand news.” Little did he know that he was predicting the future.

I subscribe to the Virginian-Pilot, my local newspaper. Yes I get weekdays and Sundays, and yes, I actually read it.

I really don’t read the newspaper for the national stories. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, runs the same news service stories. My understanding is that the once fierce rivalry among AP, UPI, Reuters, etc. has been reduced by the consolidation of companies and customer lists.

The end result? I see the same story in almost exactly the same words on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, ETC, etc. When I see it once again in my morning newspaper, I pass over it and read the stories generated by the local reporters and editors. These local stories tell me what is happening and how it might affect me. The local articles are also well researched, well written and enjoyable.

In the meantime, the on-line internet and on-cable providers continue to run the same material over and over. In some cases, they’ll change its location or even its title, but the same stories can continue to re-appear like zombies in a cheap movie. They try to jazz it up, but even the jazzy statements are regurgitated.

[Starlet’s name] rocks [article of clothing]!

[Starlet’s name] sizzles [article of clothing]!

[Celebrity’s name] did WHAT?

You won’t believe what [insert totally believable item here]!

Bottom line is that online I often encounter the same story in various forms on and off over a month.

So, Lindsey Buckingham – thanks for the prediction.

Now

Everybody sing!!

I’m just second hand news!     I’m just second hand news!

A Bm/A A Bm/A A D E
 

 

               

Why Do Newspapers Do That?

reporter

Newspaper subscribers are declining in number, which has caused some newspapers to publish less frequently and many to shift to online content.

Those who get their news from printed newspapers tend to be older and are looking for more traditional journalism – fact based and objective.

So, if that is what the print media buying public wants, why don’t the newspapers cater to them?

Yesterday I read a story in a newspaper about the Typhoon that devastated the Philippines. Somehow I can’t see the cigar smoking reporter of yore with a press card tucked into the hat band on his fedora writing about George Clooney’s reaction to the storm.

Something Old, Something New

Virginian-Pilot-logo-piloto

Courtesy of – never mind.

Joe Walsh of the Eagles wrote a song telling how he’s an analog man in a digital world. Now I’m a (very) few years younger than Joe, but I kind of understand. In my case, though, I’ve got one foot in each world.

Does this make me digilog or anatal?

I love the flexibility my Kindle gives me. When I’m traveling I can switch from a non-fiction book, to a thriller, to a computer language lesson while sitting at the restaurant. Whatever mood my muse is in, I can usually satisfy it. If the restaurant has Wi-Fi and my Kindle doesn’t have what I am in the mood for, I can download something more appropriate.

I don’t have to wait for a chance to drive to the bookstore – I can just download whatever interests me.

Although I’m clumsy with the small touchscreen, I can still check my e-mail or see what’s on the web. My Kindle is pretty cool.

However,

I love my morning newspaper. I like to spread the paper out in front of me, leaving just enough room for juice, coffee and an English muffin. I read the newspaper in a specific order. First the national news, followed by the local news and opinions, although the opinion page gets a cursory look unless something catches my interest.

Lately – not so much.

I drop the Sports section on the table in front of my son’s chair.

Then I read the “Daily Break” – where the “Virginian-Pilot” puts the light hearted material – and the all-important comics. If everything works out right, when I get to my coffee, it’s comics time.

I read the paper on-line when I’m traveling, and it works, but just is no way as satisfying as spreading the good old fashioned, cellulose based newspaper in front of my breakfast.

Then, of course, comes the ultimate reason where real books triumph over e-readers. A bathtub full of hot water, with a glass of wine sitting next to it. I’d never take an e-reader into the tub, but a good paperback book makes it perfect.

The Good Stuff

Some of the good stuff -Music by the Moody Blues

Some of the good stuff –
Music by the Moody Blues

As you may have notice, lately I’ve been trying to write humor. Something to just cheer people up.

I look at the online news (CNN, FoxNews, NBCNews, etc.) and they are full of nothing but doom and gloom. Worse still, the stories that are real downers stay on their pages for exceptionally long times. It’s like they’re trying to milk tragedy for all it’s worth.

I know that the media believes, “If it bleeds – it leads.” Murder, for example, is going to make the headline on page 1 of the newspaper, while the good things (if they’re lucky) will end up on the middle page of the Sunday “Living” section next to the ad for hearing aids.

Therefore, if you want to be famous – kill somebody. Otherwise, if you’re really lucky and work real hard, you’ll end up with the hearing aids.

The media isn’t going to change. Sadly, they’re not going to wake up one morning to overpowering guilt and shame, repent and try to do good things. However, they ignore the fact that long term, this is not an effective tactic.

The most experienced practitioners of these practices, the print media, are dying off. It used to be that cities would have two or three daily newspapers. If something extraordinary happened, they actually would stop the presses and print an extra edition. The cliché newspaper boy shouting, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” actually was real.

Today most cities have one and only one newspaper, and even those are at risk. It’s no wonder – the newspaper delivers the exact same information as what was on the internet the day before. Whatever the “wire services” (aka The Associated Press) decides to send out will be on CNN today and tomorrow in the morning newspaper – often word for word.

Of course, most people already got the “tweet” and so even CNN is providing second hand news.

News magazines are practically a novelty. If you’ve got a copy of Newsweek, put it in an acid free plastic sleeve and save it with your pristine copy of “Amazing Fantasy #15” (the comic book in which Spiderman first appeared.) The printed Newsweek may also become a collectors’ item.

Interestingly, not all magazines are at risk. I look forward to my monthly “Smithsonian,” “National Geographic,” and my technical magazines. Why? Because they make me think and they make me smile. My wife and I have real live interesting intellectual discussions about articles in “Smithsonian.”

“Make” magazine is full of things from basement inventors and weird and wonderful projects. Want to play around with a 3 dimensional printer – “Make” is the place to start. How about programming a credit card sized computer that costs around $30 to automatically water your plants? “Make” again.

Our kids love to learn, as did we when we were kids.

“Help me learn to ride a bicycle!”

“I want to take gymnastics!”

“Can you teach me some magic tricks?”

“Can I try soldering?”

My son recently asked us to teach him how to wash his clothes. I don’t expect that he’ll regularly take on this chore, but he was proud of himself for learning – as well he should.

This world is full of wonder and potential. It was designed and handmade by God himself. No subcontractors. No shoddy workmanship. “…and He saw that it was good.”

There’s lots of good stuff to learn and enjoy, and that’s what I’m going to focus.

Anybody with me?