The daily newspaper is becoming extinct because of me
I took it a little hard when I heard that New Orleans' newspaper, The Times-Picayune, will no longer publish daily print editions. Even though I don't live in Louisiana, for some reason I felt a little guilty, especially because of how I got the news: online. I consider myself a distant accomplice to the killing.
Since first learning to read, I've been a bit of a newspaper addict. Early on, it was just the comic strips, then I moved on to sports, and eventually to just about the whole thing (except for the editiorials, which I think are wasted space). Every time I visited a new place, I loved to get the local newspaper. It was an instant new world.
Even though the internet took away some of its luster, I still think the daily newspaper is one of the great accomplishments of the human race. Things happen all over the world during a day. People examine those things and then write about them. They get pulled into a package, printed overnight, and the result lands at your door at dawn. You can read it then or read it in ten years. Miraculous.
One of the best parts of moving to D.C. was being able to get the Washington Post every day. You could buy it for a quarter. On Sundays it was like a phone book, but I would read the thing cover to cover.
Then I stopped. I'm not sure when it happened. I'd open the door, pick up the Post and put it on the stack of other Posts that I hadn't read. I might try to flip through them during the weekend but usually just took them out of their plastic bags and put them directly in the recycle bin.
I looked at the Sunday Post standing in line for coffee. Still super fat. Then I looked out the window. There were a lot of fun things to do on a nice day like this. I walked out with nothing but a cup of coffee.
I can skim the news online at the Post web site or The New York Times site or The Helsinki Times site. When I want to know more about something that happened, I read a weekly magazine, which usually offer more background and development of a story.
And yet I feel a little bad, like I've abandoned somebody who needed me in their darkest hour. Part of that is probably because of tradition and habit. But maybe the bigger part is because I'm skeptical whether online content can ever match the quality of what we get in print. Like most people, I rarely read a 3,000-word article online, when there are so many more shorter, zippier things to read. The news sites adjust accordingly.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune will continue to publish three print issues every week, but their priority will be online news. I suspect this could be the beginning of a trend. A journalism professor said that the newspaper made the decision because "to get good quality information is not cheap." But doesn't that mean we're just going to get worse information?
On the other hand, can you blame them? It's easier and cheaper to post articles online, where it can be constantly updated and easily obtained by a wide readership, which has it all at their fingertips 24 hours a day — and for free. The problem is that I'm afraid we're starting to get what we pay for.