Thursday, March 19, 2009


A few thoughts and questions on newspapers. Are they dying? Do you care? Since someone first coined the slogan, "Internet- Not just for porn!" the first question has been tossed around again and again. But people have also predicted the demise of hardcopy books as well, and those certainly seem to be going strong, despite Oprah's Kindle giveaways. Perhaps the 2nd question is the more important one to be asking. When it comes to books, I don't see the day when I'm downloading the majority of my books, despite loving finding short stories and poetry online. I like the actual feel of the book in my hands when I'm in it for the long haul. I don't, however, feel the same way about the newspapers. Admittedly, I've never been much of a newspaper reader. I skim the local ones each week, looking primarily for things to do on the weekend, and secondarily for my once a month book review the Yellowknifer has been so kind as to print. As for the national papers, The Globe and Mail and The National Post, I usually only end up reading one if I'm on a flight, simply because it's there. When I think of those huge beastly papers, I think of the waste. How much of the paper do you actually read? If you're like me you read about 30% of it and the rest is crumpled unceremoniously at your feet. What other product would we be content to use 30% and throw the rest away? Would you buy a loaf of bread, eat six slices and throw the rest in the trash? Would you throw away a roll of toilet paper with 60% left on? I could go on.

Seems to me the most logical thing to do is go to the Internet. It's what we did when musicians were only giving us a couple good songs per cd. The newspaper is even worse. At least with a cd you'd feel like giving the whole thing a chance. But, if you're not going to be buying a house, do you need the real estate section? If you aren't into sports, are you going to check last nights scores? If you haven't invested, are you going to be reading the stocks? With the Internet, you read what you want. And for the billions of sites you don't (or shouldn't) there's not a bunch of paper left over that you'll most likely forget to recycle. And your hands stay clean.

On the other hand, I'm sure people would question the quality of information on the Internet. You'd most likely (but not guaranteed) trust a print journalist over the stranger behind the last Wikipedia article you read, right? But the National Enquirer isn't a newspaper, and likewise there are certain sites most reasonable people wouldn't go for the news. I check out,,, and Sure, there's a Western spin, but no more so than the national papers.

Then, this is all from someone who has never been all that into newspapers. For me to question their relevance is no big deal. I should also note that I've never checked the New York Times Review of Books in my life-- maybe I don't know what I'm missing.

Where do you stand?


Stacy said...

I buy one paper a year every April for the L.A. Times Festival of Books schedule. I get my news from the internet (only from reliable sources) and the radio...all without smudging my fingers thank you very much (can't stand that ink all over my fingers). I will never convert to reading books electronically. It just won't happen. I love everything about the physical existence of a book. I heard someone on radio saying just for the fact that they no longer have to carry a suitcase of books when they travel anymore was reason enough to have a Kindle. In all my years of travelling, I have never begrudged my overflowing bag of books their heaviness or inconvenience, or the added weight of the ones I pick up along the way. I love having them with me. So to sum it, yes, but no newspapers, and actual books, yes, but no electronic reading devices.

Anonymous said...

I never pick up a dead-tree version of the newspaper. I get all of my news online.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I read the paper every day (and never forget to recycle), but lately have been thinking that perhaps that has to change. I'm trying to be less wasteful. But then I would use electricity to read the news. But then, the computer is on anyway...

Sandra said...

Interesting points. I do not read newspapers period-I never have. But then I do not watch television or read trade magazines either-for news or anything else. I do however read book review sections in print and online. So, a Saturday edition of the newspapers for the 3 men in the house with the book sections for me and that's it. I will never give up books, although I do read them online if it means saving money by not having to buy them. And I always know what's going on in the world because the rest of you are always talking about it. Newspaper are printed for commercial purposes and I wouldn't mind seeing the end of them. But that's not going to happen any more than the several pounds of flyers left at our doors each week are going to disappear. An awful waste of resources, as you say, but people will be given what they want and are willing to pay for. I suspect that newspapers are a habit that most people are unwilling to break.

Unknown said...

When I lived in San Francisco I read three to four newspapers a day. They used to have two decent daily papers and a slew of free neighborhood weeklies and community papers. I was also a regular reader of the New York Times when I could find on left behind on public transit.

But papers have not kept up with the times. They've largly stayed the same or cut themselves to the bone, while readers have moved on to internet sources. I can't think of the last time a print book review moved me to buy a book while blog reviews do so regularly.

Now I buy a Times probably twice a month. I still love to sit in a coffee shop and read through the paper, but it's become a treat rather than a daily habit.

Anonymous said...

I subscribed to the SF Chronicle because it used to have an 8 page book section in the Sunday edition, not to mention the Pink Sheet, a must read for me since forever. But it's a shadow of itself.

I also subscribe to the local paper. I don't read it everyday or even all of it, but I do like that right at my doorstep (or, more likely nowadays, in the gutter at the end of the driveway) there's a summation of local, national and international news.

Sadly I'll probably get used to my news online unlike reading a book.

John Mutford said...

An interesting couple of postscripts:
1. I just got back from England, and my God, London is insane with newspapers. We couldn't go five feet without someone thrusting a free copy of the Metro or whatever in our faces. What's Geri Halliwell up to this week? Who cares. Granted it killed a lot of time for Tube travellers but holy crap, what a waste.

2. There was a piece about this in the Globe and Mail today (I read it on the flight back). His arguments for newspapers mostly revolved around the way newspapers make money with advertisements that go to fund dangerous and quality journalism. I'm sure one day someone will figure out how to make money of this Internet thing and when they do, they can afford to pay some journalists. Furthermore, his "danger" point would hold a lot more substance if not surrounded by stories about fall's anticipated TV line-up and a theatre accounting fraud.