Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Decline of the Newspaper

Originally uploaded by jamesjyu

I confess. I enjoy reading the newspaper. I realize in this day and age that is nearly unheard of for someone just under 30, but it's true. In fact, some days I read (I don't mean skim, I mean read) two newspapers.

Rarely is there a day when I do not purchase a USA Today, Wall-Street Journal, Kansas City Star, or if I am lucky enough to be in the area (I live on the wrong end of the state) a St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It's a habit that started when I was around 12 or 13 years of age. One summer my parents started taking us to Burger King a couple of times a week for the .99 cent Whoppers. They had a newspaper stand there. I would bum .50 cents off dad or mom, or on more fortunate days someone would leave their paper on their table after they were finished eating and I would read the sports. With time my reading spread to the rest of the paper.

Newspapers today are suffering. Circulation is down. Readership is down, unless you include on-line readership. Then the numbers actually show an increase.

There is no doubt people are choosing to get their news elsewhere. There's the Internet, cable television, and now even our cell phones. All of which can inform you of what is happening right now, not what made the deadline the night before. You can blame it on biased print journalists (as some choose to do), but there is no denying there are just more options. In fact, they are all options that take up less time.

I guess I'm holding onto a fading news genre, but I want to see more newspapers being read. You cannot replace the relaxation of just sitting down and reading for a while. Whether it's a newspaper, magazine, or book there is no replacement in our culture for that. Not even reading the news on the Internet.

Although newspapers do appear to be fading, I am holding out hope that they are simply having some difficult growing pains as they adapt.

Every industry experiences perceived threats from other sources from time to time. The 1984 Betamax Supreme Court case is a prime example of this. The film industry didn't want the VCR to be used for commercial use, citing copyright laws. Is there anyone in the film and television industry today who really believes had they won that case, they would be better off? VHS and more recently, DVD and Blu-ray sales are a large portion of the film and television industries' profits.

A.D.D. Moment: Are you getting the hint, music industry?

It's all about adapting. Newspapers must adapt, and in some ways they have been, but clearly not enough. So while we wait to see how the newspaper industry will adapt, why don't you sit down with a newspaper for a little while. Relax, have some coffee or breakfast, and read.

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