Dead Print, Dead Paper
I don't want to, y'know, be Part of the Problem. Newspapers are dying. Friends of mine in the newspaper business have been laid off and can't find jobs. Journalism is a (potentially) noble profession and a (potential) valued resource in a democracy. I've subscribed to a daily paper since I first moved out of my parents' home.
But when I look at the Albuquerque Journal these days, I'm inclined to think, "Where's the news?"
Monday's paper was sadly typical. The big headline read Crowds Pack In To Get Pancakes. Another read War On DWIs Far From Over. (I mean, duh . . . ) Below the fold we see Traveling Cat Comes Home. And then there's a feature story about a woman whose restraining orders against her husband don't seem to be working. I'm sorry for her, but that's not front-page news.
The whole front page is tabloid. Looking inside, the international and national news is all AP, NY Times, Washington Post. I can get all that online, and usually do. I'm rarely interested in the sports page. The local news, unsurprisingly, is mainly about Albuquerque, and I don't live in Albuquerque. The editorial pages are nearly all Republicans chanting in unison whatever issue Republican Central tells them to chant about that week. I rarely read the comics page because the pictures have shrunk to the size of postage stamps.
The Journal's decided that its audience is relentlessly trivial and interested only in tabloid news. Maybe that's true, but the strategy is still doomed--- that audience can get a lot more tabloid online than in the pages of the Journal.
"But we can't afford investigative reporters!" I hear them cry. But somehow they can afford the reporters who write the stories about the lost cats and all the sad stories about the mothers of kids who OD on heroin.
Is this worth $171 a year? I am beginning to think it is not.
I already get most of my news online. It's faster, convenient, and free. When, or if, the news finally makes the paper, the paper just reprints the wire story and so doesn't add any of the depth that you might expect from the passage of time.
For heavy-duty analysis, news, and vast amounts of economic statistics, I subscribe to the Economist. For well-written seriousness, we get the New Yorker. For science fiction, I get science fiction zines. For important stories made trivial, as well as hours and hours of live reportage about Tiger Woods' sex life, I can watch CNN. (It was a revelation watching CNN in Europe, though. It had actual news! Lots of it! Obviously CNN has decided that America is full of idiots and that the only people who deserve real news live abroad.)
Local papers haven't been so much killed as hollowed out. They look like newspapers, they just don't have newspaper-like stuff in them any more. It's the end of a tradition--- and maybe American democracy along with it. (After all, when the local papers go, who's going to keep the local politicians honest?)
Though I've been keeping my subscription up more in hope than out of any conviction that the paper will again become a useful part of my life, I still find myself saddened by the thought of dropping my Journal subscription. I seem to see long ghostly lines of people with names like Carolus and de Girardin and Franklin and Dow and de Tocqueville looking at me and shaking their heads.
Sigh. I remember when reporters and editors were heroes instead of lackeys, when they transmitted news instead of press releases. Those days are long gone.
Goodbye, my newspaper. Goodbye.