Friday, March 13, 2009

Disappearing Newspapers

Today, I heard the story on the radio that another daily newspaper, one in Seattle, just printed its last edition. This follows, by only a week, the closing of one of the Denver newspapers. I haven't been following these stories too closely because I have been busy with a lot of other things.

One of the reasons that the radio report caught my attention was that when I was younger, being a reporter was one of the things I wanted to do. But when I finally got to work in that field, it was not on a daily, but monthlies.

The dailies have long filled an important place in our world by reporting on the hard news. There was a time when the major dailies sent reporters all over the country and all over the world to find out what was happening, but every time newspaper owners wanted to save money on operations, those were some of the first people to be cut.

Alternative monthlies and weeklies have become more important in our culture because they bring us stories that are interesting. Not all the news or even all the important news, but they market to niches. For example, the metaphysical newspapers that I created, edited and wrote for existed because the daily papers couldn't care less about interviewing self help authors, new age musicians, psychics or alternative healers. As a result, we were successful from day one by covering exactly that turf.

In Atlanta, for example, the alternative weekly grew by leaps and bounds until it had the second largest circulation of any paper in the state, capitalizing on the metro area's rapid and sustained growth. During the same period, the daily paper barely grew at all. Why? Lots of people just wanted to pick up the free circulation weekly to read a few cultural or political stories and see what kinds of fun events were happening that they might want to go to.

In other words, we just pick up on the news we feel like picking up on. The dailies have slipped from their place as the common thread that tied a lot of the population together. I remember a time when a great conversation starter would be did you read so-and-so's column today?

Today, more and more of us get our news on the web. The Seattle paper that quit printing is supposed to launch an online only version. I read the New York Times online. Some people think this is also a very green way to go, not creating these piles of waste paper every day. So to me, reading the paper online falls into the same category as paying my credit card and phone bills online. Even the local paper is available online, so why pay to have it delivered every day?

However, there is still a sense of loss in the fact that a former fact of every day life is disappearing. There was a time when my day started by going out to the front door and picking up a newspaper and reading it as I had my coffee or tea. It was a thoughtful, quiet sort of way to wake up and get ready for the day.

So how or why did that change? I guess that over time, I found less interesting stories in the daily paper and more interesting stories in the alternative weeklies and monthlies. I developed a different routine to start the day with my journal, making notes about my dreams, pulling a tarot card for the day or doing a reading. Maybe reading from a book that interested me rather than any newspaper or magazine.

There is a different pace to life when you begin your day in a more reflective and deliberate manner. When we decide what news we want to take in and it makes more sense to us and then we go forward in a conscious way. There is a different kind of information that people want and need now, and maybe it is not to be found in newspapers. It is just another one of the differences in the way we live now and how we determine the quality of life that we want to have.

No comments: