Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Saving the Newspaper

A few weeks ago, I did something that seems a bit anachronistic in this digital age.

I got a subsrciption to the local newspaper in town: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
I don't always agree with the paper's editorial page, but I did it to make a point of the importance of newspapers and because I've loved newspapers since I was a little kid.

I remember way back in the 70s, looking forward to getting the Detroit Free Press. My parents only got the Sunday edition, but I loved reading it. The reason I didn't like the rival paper, the Detroit News, was because it didn't carry the Peanuts cartoon.

But while I loved the Free Press, I also loved reading any newspaper, including my hometown rag: the Flint Journal. As I got older, I got involved with a program that gave minority high school students to consider a career in the media. We got a chance to tour the offices of the Flint Jounral. I loved it.

I ended up going to Michigan State University in the late 80s and majored in jounralism. During my last few years, I took part in a class called Capital News Service which gave me the chance to be the capital reporter for several small newspapers in Michigan.

It goes without saying that newspapers and magazines are in trouble. As more and more of us go on the web, newspapers are no longer able to compete. The newspapers are at a loss to find a way to monetize the stuff they place on the web. Meanwhile, most of us have stopped getting subscriptions to a local newspapers or magazine. After all, why bother paying for something you can get for free?

But the thing is, it really isn't free. Yes, we think it is and we expect to read all of this top notch news for free, but in reality, someone has to pay the reporters to go out and get the news, or columnists to share their insights on culture. The people who gather the news are not simply doing this for free, they are doing this as their careers and livelyhood.

Many of us who blog or who live on the web, tend to not notice or care about the impending demise of newspapers. They are so 20th century. While going digital might be the wave of the future, in the meantime,we face losing news, because that is what newspapers give to us bloggers, news that we chat about. When a newspaper like the Rocky Mountain News goes dark, well, so does it's website. As other dailies face pressure, and other newspapers close, then those websites, the ones that we think are "free" will go away, shattering the illusion of this brave new world where newspapers are obsolete.

I'm not here to say that newspapers are innocent in all of this. They need to find ways to make their web operations money making. If Apple could use iTunes as a way to make music downloads profitable, then maybe the newspapers could do the same thing.

In the meantime, I will take my weekend subscription to the Star Tribune. It's not much, but it is a way of showing support and saying "thank you." Because without them, I would not have much to talk about on this blog.

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