Friday, May 9, 2008

The demise of newspapers

Please take the time to read the following article:

It is the thought of this writer that newspapers fund online news. I tend to agree.

I had an old journalism professor tell me once that the reason newspapers won't die is because we can't take laptops to the bathroom (or we shouldn't). Again, I agree. While some people think newspapers will soon come to an end, I'd like the world to experience, just for one day, what it would be without newspapers.

Here are my thoughts on the top 10 reasons the world needs newspapers:

1. Scrapbooks. Yes, we're all able to computerize our scrapbooks now. Heck, there are even places online where we can print, for free, scrapbook pages with the digital photos already implanted. Although I appreciate the technology, computerized scrapbooking just doesn't have the same appeal as spreading out all the pictures on the floor and getting sticky with glue while my daughters carefully craft their pages. It's messier, it's gooier, it's more time consuming, but isn't that the fun of it? The honor roll lists, the team pictures, the great shot of my kid at the park ... that's the true scraps of which scrapbooks are made.

2. Printing out articles doesn't have the same appeal. My journalism students will be the first to tell you that although they get instant gratification out of posting their edited stories online, that limited space aspect of the newspaper makes it more appealing. It makes their placement more special. And, those who are hiring are still looking for those printed clips. Space limitations force quality and competition.

3. Coffee over the newspaper sounds relaxing. Coffee over the computer sounds like work.

4. Newspapers are the local hero. While many of us get our state, national and world news online, that newspaper box still seems to jump in the way when we're going into the store or walking along our city sidewalks. I wonder if many of us would actually pay attention to the local news or go looking for it if it weren't literally in the way.

5. There's something about the front page. Although there is definitely a draw to the stories on CNN's homepage, the front page of any paper still seems like it's the sacred space for news. You never hear someone say that a story was important because it was told first on the broadcast or that it was on the homepage, unless those folks actually are broadcasters or bloggers. What you will hear is the general public discussing what was on the front page of the paper and how that made something important, whether the headline was in bold or bigger type and whether the picture was in color. You can only get so loud on a broadcast, and nowadays, everything online is "breaking news." The Internet seems to have watered down that phrase. People aren't as impressed with it anymore, but put a banner headline in a newspaper -- now you've got attention.

6. Sports. My husband and son open the paper every day, pull out the sports section and treat the rest of the paper like boiled crawfish should be on top of it. They've seen Sportscenter, they've watched the game, but they have yet to see who made the paper. They're looking for the little details. The newspaper has the whole story and only those who are most important, again, get the sacred space.

7. Lifestyles and society. How many times have we looked for the wedding announcements online?

8. Classifieds. Garage sales. Furniture. Jobs. At this point, even if we use the online component of the newspaper to search for this information, we can easily get bogged down in TMI (too much information for those of you out of the text language loop). The classified section seems to put puppies, used bicycles and go-carts in a nice organized package for us.

9. Local events. Our local paper prints an events calendar. In addition, every summer, it includes a fun guide filled with information about summer camps, activities and events that are taking place while the children are out of school. I look for that little insert every year and put it safely on my bookshelf for quick reference.

10. Sale papers. Somehow, online coupons still haven't taken over where the scissors left off. While I use the Internet on Thanksgiving Day to look for the Black Friday specials, those sale papers are going with me at 4 a.m. the next morning. I'm not going to try to find a wireless connection at that time of the morning. I want my sale papers. Comparing prices also is easier when I can lay everything out in front of me instead of having to jump from window to window online.

Okay, so the last five were easy for me. Obviously, those are the sections of the paper we all know and love. Those are the pieces we definitely would miss. Although we can get sports off, ask sports enthusiasts where they like to take their newspapers. My husband really was thrilled when I got a subscription to our local daily paper.

There should be another good reason newspapers will remain -- they were here first. Well, so were push lawn mowers, and my family no longer believes in those. While this may not be a great reason, it may be part of a great reason. Newspapers still hold a certain rank in our society, a respected tradition. They're certainly the most arguable piece of media. We are outraged when newspaper reporters make mistakes, and we expect them to in other media. While it is important for newspaper managers to adopt the idea of convergence, I don't see the printed piece going away any time soon. And if it does, I think it will make a quick comeback.

The world is your wide web. Enjoy!

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