A recent post on BoingBoing.net posed this question by linking to a post from Seth Grodin with a more extensive analysis. Both posts presuppose the demise of printed news. True, newsprint is obselete when compared to online resources, but is it really on its deathbed?
There have been some local signs. The Greenville Cageliner has severly cut back on the number of pages they print, combining sections and eliminating others. I haven’t seen copies of their weekly The Link floating around like I used to. I don’t know if it’s been discontinued or is on hiatus. Since the beginning of the new year we haven’t received our Friday copies of The Greenville Journal. Dropping subscriptions brought on by technology and a bad economy have been the imetus for these changes, I’m sure.
But if Grodin and BoingBoing are right and this trend continues, what will we miss? There is the morning ritual of coffee and the paper, but my routine has long included coffee, paper, RSS feed. When I do read the paper I tend to simply skim headlines, only selecting a few to read in-depth. Even then, I follow the Greenville News Tweets, so most of the time I’ve already seen those headlines long before they are delivered in print.
Our local paper tends to be very biased to the Right, especially in its editorial tastes, and as one might imagine, the local reporting can be a bit provincial. I wonder if my feelings would be different if our local paper were the New York Times or Washington Post.
Grodin states that, ” if we really care about the investigation and the analysis, we’ll pay for it one way or another.” Organizations like the Greenville News (aka Gannett) pay for their online services through subscriptions of their print services and the advertising that subsidizes them. If the revenue stream from these sources disappears, then the only choice would be to charge a fee for online services. I think most would choose just to stop paying, and local reporting would start to disappear.
The commenters on both the Grodin and BoingBoing sites l;eft some interesting responses to the original question. These ranged from a lack of fire starting and cage lining material, to the aesthetics of hold print in one’s hand and having a resource that survives an absence of electricity. Valid points, all.
I know that my news habits would change. There is a big difference in casually glancing at something simply because it’s on the next page, and making the concious decision to click on a link. I probably wouldn’t make the effort to click on obituaries, but in print form I at least give them a glance, since they are right there on the page. Same goes for other things I might otherwise miss. My reading would become much more selective.
Given all the environment and technology advantages of abandoning print, I’m just not quite ready to do so. I still love the feel and ritual of reading the news in print, and I hope that it sticks around for quite awhile.