When I think about my newspaper career I always think about old-time reporters, editors screaming “stop the presses” and the printers wearing the traditional square paper hats. What history, what prestige and I like to think that my delivery of the daily paper was a vital link in that news business (35 daily/Sunday, 5 Saturday and Sunday, and 6 Sunday only customers). The biggest problems I had with the newspaper business were positioning the delivery bag on the back of my bike so it wouldn’t fall off and making sure that Mrs. Marshall got her paper before 6:15 so she wouldn’t call to complain and wake my parents.
Now across the country we are seeing falling circulation numbers and mass layoffs with some papers going to or threatening to go to 3 days a week publishing. There have been big changes in the newspaper business but the change from paperboys, who used to drop the paper behind the screen door to independent route managers who now throw the plastic bagged paper somewhere in the front yard, is not the reason the newspaper business in general is failing. It comes down to the papers themselves.
The question is, why do I need a newspaper?
Entertainment? To get movie times for all the area theaters you need to check the internet.
Sports? Late game? Don’t expect late scores to be in the morning paper. This isn’t 1967 anymore, you know.
Local high school sports stories? It depends on what sport you’re looking for and what day of the week you’re checking. At some papers you get the boys and girl stories on alternate days. “Sorry, Timmy, next week try to score your 35 points on a Tuesday.”
News section? The best part of the paper? Start on the front page and read your way through the New York Times, the LA Times and the AP. This is the national news section so it’s understandable that news services would be used but if you’re looking for major news stories you’ve most likely already read many if not all those stories on the internet the day of the event. If you read major news stories on-line you are also aware that some of those stores are not picked up by the newspaper. Of the stories that are printed in the paper have you ever asked yourself how and why particular stories get in? How are the stories chosen?
I believe the service is LexisNexis which connects with over 20,000 global news sources. Just put in the subject that you want to research and news stories will pop up—Google for newspapers. Who, What, Why, When, Where journalism in order to investigate and report what happened? No need. The paper knows what it wants to tell you and simply pops in the search questions to find articles that reach the proper conclusion or opinion columns which support an established position (wouldn’t it be interesting to see that list of topics that are searched daily by the newspaper staff?). And you thought someone at the Daily Gazette actually did research on the dangers of eating beef on Wednesdays.
Why do you need to subscribe to the newspaper to read someone’s search results? You don’t. The reason that you need your newspaper should be their Who, What, Why, When and Where journalism. You may not be getting that kind of journalism in your city. In Cleveland, The Plain Dealer said they didn’t know anything about two major county government crooks until the FBI became involved. In fact, one of the convicted gentlemen, who has now gone away for 22 years, was endorsed for reelection by The Plain Dealer. They should have known, they should have investigated, they should have exposed the wrongdoing and they should have forced the two crooks from office and into the courtroom but they did not. How much did that delay in bringing the two criminals to justice cost the citizens of the county? A newspaper should be held responsible for what it reports and what it does not report. But hey, they were our guys and you know.
Newspapers have become agenda driven and lazy. You don’t need to wander out on the lawn on a rainy morning looking for a product that has nothing to offer but limited amounts of stale, copied information. It’s no wonder that newspapers are in trouble.