I like newspapers. You might say I’m a newspaper person. I grew up with newspapers in the house, my dad walked in with one every day. I like reading a newspaper. I mean a real newspaper made out of paper, newsprint paper with ink printed on it. Not an internet news-zine, not e-news, not a web site paper, but a real honest-to-goodness newspaper. I enjoy holding the paper in my hot little hands, black ink and all. I like turning pages, I like having different sections of the paper, sports, business, entertainment, and so on. I know newspapers are considered “so yesterday” but I like them nevertheless.
I quit subscribing to the Los Angeles Times after I couldn’t take the paper’s leftist bias any longer. I didn’t mind it so much on the editorial pages, a paper has every right to take whatever position it wants in its editorials, but it didn’t stop there. The bias was liberally (pun intended) sprinkled throughout all the sections, the Front Page most of all. It finally made reading the paper a daily aggravation that I no longer wanted to pay for.
I turned to the only other newspaper choice open to me, The Daily News. Not exactly in the same league as the Times, it was at least a viable alternative with a somewhat more balanced reportage. Their features were pretty good too, with two pages of comics and puzzles, two pages of editorial and opinion, and a nice little local business section. They had several exclusive area columnists, most notably Dennis McCarthy who managed to dig up wonderful human interest pieces of local everyday people. I always looked forward to reading McCarthy’s column.
The Daily News was a real hometown newspaper with good city news reporting and just enough national and world news to keep its readers up on most of the important stuff. It had no pretense or ambition to be a giant media monolith, it was what it was, a nice little daily paper. Always easy to read, always something interesting to discover within its pages, the Daily News chugged along like The Little Engine That Could, and that was enough.
And then someone at the top decided to change things. To “fix” things, as they like to say, in order to create a new, improved Daily News. So what did they do? They eliminated features, they dropped columnists, and the ones they kept, were harder to find within the paper. They redesigned the masthead, changing the two-color logo to one color and thus watering down its impact. They increased the sizes of the photos which lessened the space for the stories.
They changed the type face in the headlines making it more difficult to read, the fonts changing from story to story. Maybe the graphic designers think that making a newspaper more difficult to read is somehow “edgier,” but it’s about as edgy as a Frisbee. The italicized fonts now make the news story headlines look like copy headings for advertisements. Some of the section mastheads are printed in light primary colors, which also give them the look of ads.
The page numbers in the main section have been made smaller, harder to read and harder to find the continuation of stories. The comics have been reduced to one page, with many favorites being dropped. The Business section no longer appears on a daily basis. The Dining/Food section has been eliminated entirely. In short, there is less paper to read now, therefore less reason to subscribe to it. How is giving its readers less to read an improvement? How does dropping features make the newspaper better? How does making the page numbers harder to read enhance the paper?
If the intention of the powers that be at the paper is to chase readers away, they’re doing a good job.
In the world of today we can always grab the headline news on the cable news stations or on the internet certainly, but that doesn’t or shouldn’t take the place of a daily newspaper. Reading a good paper is very different from surfing the web or watching television news. It offers a totally different dynamic. Papers should offer more in depth news reporting than you get on TV. They used to. And why does it have to be one or the other? Who is to say we can’t have newspapers AND electronic news?
When and if the day finally comes that all things printed on paper are gone forever, that will be a very sad chapter in the history of communication. But when that happens don’t look for the story on the obituary page because there won’t be one. It might get 20 sections on the network evening newscast, however, if you’re lucky.