Sunday, July 27, 2008

Are Newspapers Dinosaurs?

By Alan Caruba

My local Sunday newspaper was not delivered, requiring me to drive to my local newsstand to pick up a copy. They, too, had experienced a delay in receiving a batch of them for sale.

When I got back home, the Sunday edition was so anemic that I wondered what there was about it that merited its $2.00 newsstand price. Once the usual advertising inserts were removed and I tossed the sections devoted to real estate, auto sales, and classifieds for employment, there was little left. The alleged news sections had little to offer except the usual “who got killed” stories of murder and such. Politics was mostly about who was going to jail or likely to.

This sliming of the news content has become increasingly dramatic in recent times. Were it not for the obituaries, there would be little that passes for news. Most certainly in my case (and I suspect other’s) the unremitting editorials and commentaries about global warming and the wickedness of the George W. Bush go unread. Too boring.

Journalists may be the last people to learn that the Earth is a decade into a cooling cycle that began in 1998. The fact that the Earth and certainly the United States is not running out of oil, natural gas, or coal has yet to have penetrated newsprint. Or Congress.

What this suggests, of course, is that anyone paying any attention to anything other than the sports pages, the horoscope, and movie listings knows that the print news media is so out of touch with reality that purchasing a thin newspaper for the price of a bag of cookies gives the reader pause.

I mean, I really want the cookies and I can get my news from the Internet or the business and trade magazines I receive each week. I read The Economist, a British publication with a tilt toward the European Union, but one that truly does an excellent job of covering world affairs and business trends. It is equally savage to British and American politicians.

Business Week does a credible job of explaining why everyone is on the verge of panic and the current financial cycle is essentially just your typical “correction” when enough people are caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Reading Time or Newsweek is a huge waste of time. Their knee-jerk liberalism and bizarre devotion to failed economic and political “solutions” is utterly pathetic.

I am a former journalist who began my adult life as a reporter and editor on weekly newspapers, graduated to dailies, and swiftly concluded that the real money was in public relations. Today, being a journalist for a daily newspaper is a hazardous occupation subject to buy-outs and lay-offs. Some newspapers are contemplating letting “eye-witnesses”, i.e., ordinary folk, write the news of local events.

No matter how many blogs and forums daily newspapers add to their Internet sites, the fact remains that their pages are fewer as advertisers seek alternative means of reaching the public. Were it not for real estate and automobiles, supermarkets, mass retailers, and furniture stores going out of business there would be even less scant advertising.

Aside from the economic pressures, I harbor the notion that people simply trust their local newspaper less and less these days. They look at the news and then compare it to what they are hearing on talk radio or the cable television news shows, and conclude that it is hopelessly biased. The daily Rasmussen Report polling confirms this trend.

These days the daily newspapers are desperately trying to get Sen. Barack Obama elected as the next President. They are besotted with the notion that the future of America depends on electing a semi-black man (he’s half-white) to the office. Despite the gusher of gushing about him, quite a few Americans have their doubts.

I don’t expect daily newspapers to entirely fade away, but I do expect them to remain slim vestiges of what they used to be. They are the dinosaurs of our times. When people can get news from their cell phones, it suggests the next day may just be a late delivery.

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