Column: Let’s give some ink to newspapers’ role

Friday’s column (read it here) is a followup to last Friday’s piece about my 25th anniversary in newspapers. This time I talk about the importance of newspapers, the kind of personalities they attract and the reasons we do what we do. It’s an uncommonly sincere column and I hope you like it.

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  • Bob Terry

    David, I believe Friday’s column really touches a “nerve” with some of us “oldtimers” who read the IVDB cover to cover and appreciate getting our news in print in the morning and then seeing follow ups on the evening news, etc. I am a wreck if my paper isn’t on my driveway in the mornings and I always look to see who’s responsible for the article I am reading, whether it is Allen, Emerson, Blackstock, Tate, Nisperos, Woods III, Sholley, Lehman…and so on and so on. And, I will NOT give up my newspaper until THEY pry it from my cold, dead hand.

    [Thanks for the support, Bob. And I hope your hands (and the rest of you) stay warm and alive for many years to come. -- DA]

  • Will Plunkett

    I was a newspaper carrier (going back to the Daily Report days, and afternoon weekday delivery), which was a great “job” for a kid to have. Taught personal responsibility, timeliness, respect, patience, and probably gave me a permanent smell and skin absorption of newsprint (it could literally be in my blood!). While online news is convenient and very current (sometimes too current, i.e. not all the facts checked out in favor of just-get-it-out-there-now), there is something to the slower read-at-your-own-pace aspect of the paper copy. And a click-on crossword puzzle or word jumble can’t compete with pencil marks in the boxes.

    [Some people, such as my parents, let newspapers stack up a bit and read them (esp. feature sections) as time allows. Hard to do with a website. -- DA]

  • Ramona

    You fellas said it all. And so much better than I could.

    My day doesn’t start officially until I sit at the dining room table with my copy of the DB and another cup of coffee.

    I feel the same way about paperback books. No slippery e-reader can be a satisfying as the feel of having an actual bundle of paper in one hand and my lunch in the other. Of course, I sometimes smear catsup on a page or two.

    I’m proud to be a member of the “cold, dead hands” brigade.

    [Thanks, Ramona. And careful with that catsup! -- DA]

  • Stephen

    I’m late to this party it seems.

    I’ve read and have had discussions about the newspaper business with random people a few times.

    I have great respect for those who generate content. Reporters, editors, commentators all do a marvelous job of keeping us informed.

    But let’s be clear about this: The NEWS business is thriving. The newsPAPER business is not.

    The Internet’s effect on news and print was far more disruptive than even 24/7 cable TV news on the newspaper and magazine industry.

    What most paper media companies fail to understand is that it’s a MEDIA (as in the means of distribution), not CONTENT problem. Distributing dead trees just can’t compete with 1′s and 0′s at the speed of light.

    Your work would be pretty much the same no matter how it’s distributed. And there’s not a single print media company willing to remake itself to take advantage of the opportunities the Internet provides.

    Tribune sort of half-heartedly tries. They are somewhat fortunate to have TV and Radio stations to diversify with. But they still don’t take complete advantage of the synergies that could be had because they insist on their walls between divisions.

    For example, the LA Times has much better reporters than KTLA, but could you imagine an internet based newscast that took the strengths of both? No shoehorning content to fit a 30 or 60 minute broadcast! On-demand access to in-depth multimedia stories!

    You could still make it ad supported and self-sufficient if the company would finally drop dead tree distribution and all its costs!

    The world will always need good newsmen and newswomen. But what there’s a lack of is someone who understands the medium is not the message.

    [Stephen, you raise some good points, many if not most of which I agree with. That column was meant to be about the pressures the business is under and the dedication of my colleagues (and the pressure they in turn are under) rather than necessarily pro-print. I agree the world will always need newsmen and newswomen. Where I would disagree is that if we stopped printing a paper, as you urge, that we could go Internet-only seamlessly. Maybe one day, but at this point we'd probably vanish because the revenue wouldn't be there. To my knowledge there's no online-only news source that approximates what a newspaper does, which is telling, isn't it? Bear in mind too that the vast majority of our readership is middle-aged or older and wants our product in print. -- DA]

  • Mike

    Dave,

    An interesting fun-fact I saw a while back…. We, as a society, receive more “news” in a 24 hour period than our parents did in a 3-month period. With the various “news” outlets, we are inundated with news every second of every day (except for the DB online, which gets updated once or twice a day…sorry, had to throw that in…).

    [I think we're updating a lot more than that, Mike. (Sorry, had to throw that in.) But maybe we're trying not to inundate everyone. -- DA]

  • Mark Allen

    The problem with making Internet news self-supporting is the amount that can be charged for ad space. Print is finite and the cost is therefore higher. Cyberspace is limitless and the cost for ad space is unfortunately small even for high-traffic sites.

    Newspapers are just another industry feeling the effects of the Net, including television, music, etc.

    Society is also continuing its shift from centuries of print-based communication to visual. “Amusing Ourselves to Death” was an eye-opener for me on this phenomenal phenomenon.

    [Your explanation of relative ad rates is concise and clear. That's the dilemma we're all facing. If we went web-only tomorrow, we'd probably soon have a staff of one reporter. The future may be glorious, but it ain't here yet. -- DA]

  • Rod L

    This lively and interesting conversation between a reporter (or in Dave’s case, columnist) and his readers could never happen in print. Seeing your hardcore print subscribers reading the blog and leaving comments is yet another sign that the old printing presses are ready to be retired.

    [Maybe. And I do like the back and forth here on a daily basis. But let's not mistake this blog's limited and sophisticated readership for the Bulletin's; believe me, some of my, and our, most devoted readers are seniors who don't have computers. Wouldn't surprise me if half our readers, or more, don't read us online, which is an awfully large customer base to tell to go jump in a lake. -- DA]