Tuesday, August 16, 2016

All the news that’s fit to print

If I hadn’t been at the breakfast table reading the print newspaper — or what we used to call the newspaper — I would have missed it. It was a piece about the stir John Oliver caused on his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight,” about the newspaper industry. The short version, as he later tweeted, is the industry “is suffering. That’s bad news for journalists — both real and fictional.”

In his video segment, he said it was bad news for the public, which will suffer because of “our unwillingness to pay for the work journalists produce.”

Oliver had well researched and reasoned arguments for his concerns. I only have my shallow preferences and self-interests to support his thesis. I happen to love newsprint.

It's not that I'm against digital news. I read that, too. Nothing beats the immediacy of breaking news or watching how stories develop by the hour. But a steady diet of digital is like having dessert for dinner. I can only consume so much digital news, maybe one or two screens' worth, which on my iPhone isn't very much. It’s like, SQUIRREL! Something else captures my attention.

In print, I see the complete story laid out and can decide what to read and what to skim. There are graphic and tactile qualities to the piece. And a nice rustle of pages as I flip forward and back.

I don’t mind spilling coffee on my newspaper; not so much my iPhone. I don’t mind leaving a just-read paper behind in my travels for others to read; again, not so with an iPhone. Well, you get the point.

Occasionally, when people find out I subscribe to the paper, they ask whether I still have a certain article or section. One woman was quoted in a trend piece and eager to see hard copy. She had read the story online, but having the real thing was special.

One thing that has never happened to me while reading a newspaper is being interrupted by a popup, asking, “Do you want to subscribe?” “Do you want a live chat?” “Are you dealing with male pattern baldness?” Yes, online publications do that.

To me, it’s not about print versus digital. I want print and digital. And while I’m always looking for a bargain, free news isn't always a bargain if it decimates the profession of journalism and the papers they work for. I still want real news, not crowd-sourced input or infotainment. I want critical, investigative reporting that brings important issues to light. And, yes, I am willing to support that work with paid subscriptions, which attracts ad dollars, which keeps papers afloat.

I love the work of "fictional journalists" like Oliver, but I also subscribe to print publications so I can read the work of real ones.

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