This post is from Ed, who finds that newspapers -- the printed product -- are simply fading out of his life.
I'll tell my story because I fear I may be killing an American industry.
I've read newspapers as long as I can remember. It all started with the Sunday funnies. Those whimsical and colorful four-panel strips that told stories that often went over my head. I remember quite vividly that the local radio station would read the funnies on the radio every Sunday at a certain hour, and I was able to follow along and enjoy the tales. As years go by, the sections change but the delivery method remained the same. My interest moved to ads (what toy do I want next), and then around age 10 to the Sports section.
The Sports section was the most important part of the morning. The stats, the box scores, were my connection to another world. I would spend hours looking at the box score and recreating in my mind all the action from the previous night's games. There were no TV highlights; in my mind the images I saw were the faces from the baseball cards. But I saw images; I saw the action. And Sunday- Sunday was special. Sunday had ALL the stats for ALL the players printed on two full pages, and I would spend hours dissecting, analyzing, and reviewing all the numbers. Who had the most hits? Who had the most home runs? Every Sunday, I had to know. And what was great was that the stats were through the previous Friday's game -- they were CURRENT.
It was all there in print . And it was each and every morning. Like magic, I would wake, open the front door, and find the medium to transport me to another world waiting in the driveway. And should the paper NOT be there, well a whole round of curses for the paper boy. Damn him to heck -- give me my Sports section.
* * *
Over time, the love affair changed but it was still there. It was the Friday weekend section, where I first saw what movies were opening that day and what records were on sale at Tower Records that week. It was where I found my first job, bought my first car. The newspaper was an hour or more each day of news, views, ideas, dreams, wants, needs, good, and bad. It was the start of each day, and no day could begin without it.
Today I start each day with a glance through the e-mail and then 30 minutes on the RSS Reader. All my news delivered to the computer. I don't have to put on slippers and stroll through the dew; I wake the computer and open the browser. If I want opinion, a laugh, a provoking thought, or just a general what's-going-on, it's all online. I don't wait until Sunday to get my stats- I go to ESPN and get 100 more stats than the newspaper ever provided. If I want to know what movie opens this week (or the next 12 weeks), it's online. Buy something -- online. Local news -- online. National -- online. Want a laugh -- the internet's loaded. What's on sale? It was emailed to me that morning.
I still subscribe to my local paper. I cut down to Thursday through Sunday because I wasn't reading during the week. Even now, Thursday and Friday's paper often sits in the garage unread until Saturday. If then. Often I'm throwing away the paper, rubber band still wraped around the twice folded relic. On the days I read it, I spend a fraction of the time I used to. I skip most of the ads (saw them online), I quickly browse the sports (the news stories are half a day old, I read them at lunch the day before), and I skim the rest. I think every day about canceling. I could really use the extra money, but I just can't do it.
* * *
I know my paper is dying. It's a McClatchy paper -- it's on its last legs. Money is tight in my corner of the world, but yet for some reason I keep getting it. I can't give up on my youth, my standard news bearer. In some ways I feel that canceling my paper is canceling on my community, my city, my city's history and in so many ways my history. I tell myself that with the internet, I'm not missing the news -- I'm just getting it in shorter, quicker doses. What I lack in depth, I gain in...
I don't gain. I don't get depth. The RSS reader gives me a quick sentence or two. Sometimes I click and read an entire article, but often not. The thoughts and opinions I read are thoughts and opinions I agree with- why click or subscribe to a blog that doesn't share my values. The sports opinion now comes from national writers; I don't read the local opinions any more. I don't experience the joy of imagining a game -- I see the highlights instantly on the web. I don't wait for the weather -- I catch a bottom scroll on the tv, link on my homepage, or even a menu on the Wii. I get digital copies of the ads I want to see, and don't give a second thought to the ads I miss. I read news on my cell phone, on my computer, and on my Kindle (I'm also killing the book printing industry; go ahead and add that my iPod is killing the music industry while you're at it). I probably spend twice as long reading news, but next to no time with a newspaper. And I know that even though I still subscribe, I am transitioning further away from the newspaper. I'm killing an American industry.