Why I Love Newspapers

For the second time in a week (see here and here) I've blogged about something from the Philadelphia Inquirer. You may or may not know that the Inquirer recently went into bankruptcy proceedings. I don't know what I would do without the Inquirer to read everyday. Blogging is great but it simply cannot replace, in my opinion, regular newspaper reporting. Somewhat tangentially related to that: I recently renewed my subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Education. I was given the option to receive it, for a somewhat lesser price, as only an electronic edition. It completely replicates the print edition in look and content. But I find it much more difficult and less satisfying to read, and I also find that I read it differently. When the print edition arrived I generally read it from cover to cover. I would take it with me anywhere I went in the house, at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee, lying in bed in the evening, sitting on the couch in front of the t.v. Now, it is true you can drag a laptop around with you to all of those places, too. But it is just not the same experience to read something on a screen, as to turn the pages back and forth. Try sitting on the couch in front of the t.v. with a cat on your lap and holding a laptop. Much easier to hold a newspaper. I don't read as much of the paper as I used to; I skim more, and ignore more. In the print edition, now and then I used to scribble commentary down next to an article, or tear out a piece I wanted to hold onto for later reference or blogging. I suppose you could print out something for the same purpose. But it really isn't the same. Moreover, the print edition sitting there on my coffee table used to be a reminder to me that I needed and wanted to read it. Now I receive an email once a week that the "paper" has arrived and it is far too easy to acknowledge it and then ignore it the rest of the week. I suppose it's better for the environment but it's definitely not better for my newspaper reading experience.

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And you cannot put laptops in trenches under manure for raspberries, either can you? They don't rot down as well. I might have to buy newspapers this week for this gardening project. Wait, I can use that pile of articles I printed out three years ago, and never looked at again, when I first transferred over to the electronic versions of newspapers.

What a depressing article. Perhaps the most depressing item on the list of ten papers is the Cleveland Plain Dealer which has frequently been the source of outstanding reporting. As has the Boston Globe, as have many of the other papers on that list. sigh.

Ah well, just get a Kindle. It rests nice while laying down and at most other times. Also, no black fingertips.

While I realize that print editions are dying, in the sense that newspapers are going out of business and many people are reading most of their news and information online, I still prefer to stick with the old ways in many situations. During a recent trip to the UK, one of the great pleasures for me was to read the newspaper, or a book, while riding the train, Tube, or bus. When I was finished with the paper, I could hand it to a friend, or leave it for another person to read; I left a book I had finished with a friend, so that she could read it as well. Wouldn't do that with my iPhone, or with a Kindle (if I had one).

Kindles may be convenient and wonderful, but I prefer books, whether from my own collection, loaned by a friend, or borrowed from the library. My local newspaper is too conservative, and not very well-written, so I subscribe to _The Nation_. I get a cryptic crossword with that each week as well. Electronic media may be perfect for others, and of course that's their choice and preference; I just wish some of them would shut the feck up with the annoying proselytizing and the smug superiority.

The metros, mostly owned by chains, are dying (and good riddance, they are mostly awful). But hyperlocal papers are thriving, and the big national/international newspapers will survive as they figure out how to move away from the expensive paper/ink/presses/trucks technology onto the Web, e.g., USA Today, NYTimes, Guardian....

Ah, but the Philadelphia Inquirer is somewhere inbetween, being a metro that is locally owned. It's a good paper, not awful, and very important to the region and the state. They keep an eye on the state legislature like no one else does. It will be a terrible thing if we lose that paper. There are no bloggers, no online services, who can provide the kind of oversight that the Philadelphia Inquirer does.

Even in the (apparently) exalted electronic format, dishonest journalism and crappy, indolent writing are still dishonest journalism and crappy, indolent writing. If my local newspaper is any example, there are more opportunities online for egregiously stupid and inane commentary from readers as well.