Saturday, February 21, 2009

Scene This Week In…

“No Free Papers.” When I first spotted this little sign at the end of a driveway on Montgomery Road in Ellicott City I was immediately struck by the double meaning. Undoubtedly the homeowner was merely signaling to delivery people that they did not want free papers dropped in their driveway. I got a different message. I saw it as a commentary on the decline of newspapers.

You see, there are truly “no free papers.” While there may be papers that are circulated for free, somewhere, somebody is paying for that paper. Someone is paying for the writers to write the stories and the paper to be printed and circulated. Most often that someone is the advertiser. Declining paid ad pages are bringing down the newspaper industry.

This is not healthy for our democracy. The fourth estate has long been the watchdog of government and the rights of citizens. When a papers ability to report and investigate the news is diminished everyone pays the price. There are no free papers and our own freedom is jeopardized when the papers go away.

Over in Columbia it was this line up of shiny new snow blowers that caught my attention. Inside the Lowes store in Gateway Exchange there were displays of grills and lawn furniture, harbingers of the impending approach of warmer weather. Outside, in the cold afternoon, these items reminded me that winter is far from over.

Last year, I purchased an electric snow blower for our short driveway. I reasoned that this small snow appliance was all that I needed. Mama Wordbones snickered when she saw it. When she lived out in Glenwood she had a driveway that was almost a quarter mile long. To keep that drive cleared of snow she had a heavy duty self propelled snow blower that should have required a Class A drivers license to operate. It was bigger than any of the ones that Lowes was selling. It was a real mans snow blower.

Obviously that machine was too big for our new home but I may have gone too far in the opposite direction when I purchased my little electric number. I almost feel as if I should wear a skirt when I use it.


Anonymous said...

The decline in newspaper circulation has one primary reason that insiders don't want to see.

Even though there are many ancillary supporting contributors to the decline, the single most important reason is that those on the inside of the newspaper business refuse to see that readers and more importantly, potiential readers view the newspaper's job completely differently than the paper insider.

See how I repeated myself at the beginning here? I realize this is indicitive of a certain style or genre, but it's intensely irritating when you just want facts, and only have time for the crux.

Potential readers want facts, and they are sick to death of editorialising outside of the opinion pages. They are nauseatingly exhausted with +not+ being able to figure out what happened, and sifting through mountains of useless interpretive text to retrieve data. And most of all, they (we) are throwing down the gauntlet over lack of investigative reporting.

Readers, right or wrong, believe that newspaper staff investigate; sift through lengthy data and documents to provide the reader with the facts they need to digest the news, ie., new happenings. When they don't find ++news++ or find it too difficult to interpret, or find it's been repeated, the paper looses usefulness.

I could go on, but that's enough venting. I really like newspapers, and believe the newspaper staff knows much more than what they're comfortable printing, and wish everyone had my patience with them so that we didn't have to be concerned about demise of newspapers and it's impact on Democracy.

Anonymous said...

Change happens. If you don't grow, you decline. In marketing they talk about the product life cycle, and this is pretty indicative of what may be happening in the print business. We don't see many horses or horse and buggies anymore but they were all the rage in 1890.
Do you still own a self correcting selectric typewriter? Printsetters in the newspaper industry are gone. Graphic designers in the printing industry were replaced by computers. Newpapers have been on the decline for several years with the advent of the internet and increasing use of computers to deliver the news and commentary. Television also does a reasonable job of feeding us our daily dose of news..whether its worth seeing and hearing or not. Newpapers have created websites to give us their news but they may have been too late, their internet budgets too small and their readership awareness of their internet news capabilities too minuscule. Product lifecycles don't have to remain in a decline status but can be salvaged and recreated for explosive growth through change, imagination and innovation. Will the newspaper industry survive?