I live in the South. It’s icy today, so there is a region-wide panic about driving. Therefore, we had no newspaper when I got up this morning. Being Sunday, I’m accustomed to lingering over the paper with multiple cups of coffee, so I was somewhat at a loss. I decided to try a very pragmatic experiment as to whether a physical piece of paper is better than getting news from other sources.
Environmental concerns aside (for now), I was more interested in whether or not I could get essentially the same experience from online news as I enjoy from the paper. The answer was yes…and no.
First, consider content. As far as hard news is concerned, other sources beat out the newspaper by miles. Our local rag, The Greenville News, is decidedly right leaning, having supported the Republican agenda in every election in recent memory. They even bury Doonesbury in the classifieds, so it won’t offend the right-wing locals. Even so, the paper still gets irate letters to the editor for the strip’s very presence in the paper, regardless of location. I always have NPR’s Sunday Edition on in the background as I skim the headlines, so the paper acts as a local gloss as to what’s happening. What our local paper does provide, of course, is local news – metro, obituaries, social life, and local arts being the most important (IMHO.)
So why not view the local news online? The Greenville News has a very extensive website, as do the Spartanburg Herald and most other local papers. The items mentioned above can be found in these online resources, too. Plus there is the ability to link to other vast resources, and to make archives available at a mouse click. A definite plus.
Since newspapers thrive on first advertising, then subscriptions, both of these must be promoted, even in an online environment. The website is loaded with ads, including annoying pop-ups. This is the case with most news sites I’ve visited. As annoying as pop-up ads are on a website, I actually like getting the sales circulars in the Sunday paper. I like seeing if the local Best Buy or Office Depot might have some gizmo that will organize my life. Also, news items may appear a day or so later than they appear in print. Some features, such as comics, aren’t available at all, so as to give an advantage to subscriptions. Some of this, of course, is due to copyright and licensing of the material, whether it has been granted to both online and paper versions, or only paper versions.
Then there is the issue of equipment. If you like to get your news at a desk with a computer, no problem with the online there. However, I like to take my coffee in a recliner with a view overlooking our lake. I’m fortunate enough to have WiFi in the house and either Palm Tungsten or a laptop to surf from my favorite chair. But, it’s hard to beat the intangible tactile pleasure of opening a paper and folding it back to read with a steaming cup of half-decaff. I guess we’ll keep our subscription, and hope that the ice melts and this morning’s paper gets here soon.