Sunday, January 14, 2007

Newspapers, Internet, et al...

About two weeks ago, our Minneapolis/St. Paul newspaper, the Star Tribune was sold to an investment firm; our local "weekly's article" about it. Obviously... It's pretty big news.

What's really interesting, is the kerfuffle that I've been noticing IN the StarTrib and how the issue is leaking into all sorts of commentary, and articles, and thoughts by the "talking heads" of the Twin Cities.

You see... A big reason for EVERY newspaper in the States to be nervous, is the proliferation of the Internet as a "news source" for so many people. I admit, as a blogger who enjoys his "rants," that I use the Internet as a source for at LEAST 75% of my news-gathering. Newspapers are facing an uphill battle, as readership recedes due to the ease and sheer amount of "data" that is available on-line.

Many of the articles in the newspaper these past few weeks have been making points like: "Well, yeah, you get your 'news' from on-line, but generally, it's ON-LINE NEWSPAPER SITES from which you are receiving the news!

Somewhat true.

I personally scan the New York Times, the The Guardian AND my local Star and Sickle for my main news. However, in defense of others, I spend quite a bit of time on the Beeb and Reuters for a LARGE proportion of my linking habits, which I'm sure my readers have noticed.

Today in the "Star and Sickle" a favourite of both My Lady and myself, Garrison Keillor (by the way, if you follow the next link, you'll discover that they don't actually RUN the column on the on-line version of the StarTrib. This is a blatant example of Newspapers sticking it their readership, and trying desperately to maintain a PAPER sale) wrote about how newspapers are all about style, and being online is 'un-cool'. I'll excerpt the first half of the first paragraph here, and hopefully won't get sued, but it's great writing, so... there:
    It seems to me, observing the young in coffee shops, that something is missing from their lives, the fine art of holding a newspaper. They sit staring at computer screens, sometimes with wires coming out of their ears, life passing them by as they drift through MySpace, that encyclopedia of the pathetic, and check out a video of a dog dancing the Macarena.
He goes on from there... But anyhoo... To give you the gist, Mr. Keillor believes that there's something magical about holding a newspaper. Scanning the news, knowing the news, and well... Appearing to MAKE the news is a stylistic choice that youngsters don't get. But I digress, Mr. Keillor's column today is simply another: "save our newspapers from the evils of on-line news-gatherers."

Perhaps it's due to my being in the "in between" generation as a young "X'er." But I LOVE newspapers. I buy one whenever I can. I subscribe to the StarTrib, and I USED TO subscribe to the New York Times. However, cost is always an issue, innit? I love 'em though... The feel of the print, the ability to take in news that you find interesting, all the while getting nasty inky fingers... Awww, the beauty of it! I also LOVE on-line sources of news! It's on-demand, I get news from all over the world, many sources, many viewpoints, and in many ways.

I like BOTH ways of news-gathering.

So, I understand the stress that newspapers "all-over" are going through. See, the really great demographic for advertising is that coveted 18-25 year-old group... And folks... 18-25's (or Generation NEXT, which still bugs me as a label) are ON-LINE GROUPIES! My wife RARELY reads an actual paper. She is ALWAYS on-line however, absorbing news from home (Britain) or from around the U.S., what-have-you.

But there's a nice "middle ground," folks... I enjoy being firmly within this zone and I'm going to give you an example of it today, ending my column with that example.

I was reading the Entertainment section of the Star and Sickle today, when I ran across THIS, but on the printed page. Chris Riemenschneider, one of the music critics at the StarTrib, plugging Beth Orton and M. Ward's new version of the old Dylan song, Buckets of Rain. Well... I read it, saw it was the "$.99" option (Brits would probably call it the £.79 option), and quickly jumped onto my iTunes music store, and bought the puppy.

It's a great song. I read about it in the newspaper, went on-line (not to a music store) and bought it.

Instant freaking gratification, thanks to both the printed page, AND the magic of the Internet.

Folks, we live in a weird, strange, and wondrous world. Let's try to enjoy it sometimes, huh?