Lamenting the decline of the print media
In the previous post on this blog (April 28), I published a poem by my wife Sybil, lamenting her entrance into the ranks of the octogenarians. Now I have a lament of my own to write. But mine involves a matter far removed from the personal issue of aging.
My lament is about the declining importance of the print media as a factor in modern society. As a journalist who was employed by news magazines and daily newspapers for more than 35 years until retiring 20 years ago, I find the trend particularly painful.
Last year, 15% percent of the nation's newspapers and countless magazines were shut down. So far this year, major newspapers in Denver and Seattle have folded and the circulation of the nation's top daily papers continues to plummet.
As a result, daily papers and magazines of all types are trimming their staffs, reducing their publication frequency, and taking other measures to cut operating costs.
The current economic crisis is forcing publishers to take drastic steps as advertising revenue falls precipitously. For the first time ever, for example, the New York Times is carrying advertising on its first page--a traumatic policy change for the Old Gray Lady of journalism.
In addition to the economic crisis, of course, there is another reason for the print media's decline. Readers are being drawn away by the Internet. More than a half-century ago, television began to lure readers from dependence on newspapers and magazines. Now the Internet is proving to be an even more formidable rival.
I may be an old grouch, but I also worry that the print media's decline reflects the general dumbing-down of America and diminished interest--particularly among young people--in the news of the day. Increasingly, I find people satisfied with what I regard as superficial coverage of vital current events.
I subscribe to my local daily paper and to several weekly news and special-interest publications. I also read nearly a dozen on-line news outlets that are e-mailed regularly to me. The Internet sources deal with specialized subjects or often supplement what I learn from print media.
But in terms of in-depth reporting, commentary and analysis, very few of the Internet news outlets offer what the print media--or, at least, publications like the New York Times--can provide.
Moreover, the strain of reading on a computer screen for lengthy periods of time cannot compare with the ease of reading a printed newspaper or magazine. I don't understand how one can comfortably sustain the attention required for prolonged reading material on line.
But that's probably because I'm a cranky old man with both diminished stamina and vision.