Saturday, May 26, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: A Bygone Era Part 1, Shrinking Newspapers

Husband Walter relayed some news to me two days ago that made me a little sad.

The Times Picayune, the venerable New Orleans daily, announced the cut to a three-day publication schedule.

Yesterday hubby passed along more news. The Mobile (AL) Register has now gone the same route, cutting publication to three days a week and touting a beefed up Web presence.

Notice I learned of this news via word of mouth, not from my perusal of a newspaper.

My newspaper reading had already diminished to maybe three times a week since my stroke last year. Physically turning the pages and manipulating a targeted section of a page close enough to compensate for vision issues has been frustrating.

I spent a decade and a half in the newspaper business and the first five years of that was on my high school and college student newspapers. I eventually landed in science writing and public relations for a marine science research and education agency for 17 years and a marine biology research laboratory for my last 11 years of employment.

Through the years I remained captivated by the news-gathering and production process of newspapers. But even in college I was aware that we were on the front edge of major changes in the newspaper business. Computerization was easing in even on the student newspaper.

Now the traditional process that so enthralled me is near extinction.

The Hattiesburg American, the Mississippi newspaper of my youth, once a robust source of community news, opinion, sports and entertainment, now operates with a bare bones staff and is no longer produced locally.

The Mississippi Press, a daily newspaper my husband and I worked on in coastal Mississippi, was merged into its bigger parent paper, the Mobile (AL) Register as a regional section several years ago. Then it disappeared entirely. A bit of local news and features appears on the front page and sometimes part of the second page of a “Coast and Local” section.

I find it ironic that I am getting my news mostly from conversations with my husband. He regularly reads actual newsprint newspapers as well as news online. I, on the other hand, rarely even watch the news on TV.

It is also ironic that the same day I learned news of the latest newspaper “shrinkage,” I had just successfully registered my new Kindle and downloaded several free eBooks to see if everything worked okay.

An additional happy success was selecting a larger font size (a really, really larger font size!) so that I don’t have to hold a book or newspaper up to my nose to read. No more printer’s ink on my nose!

 Another irony I recognized in this whole experience: To double check the new publication schedule of the Times Picayune I didn’t go to a newspaper or newspaper morgue but to Google, where else?

And the article I read included typical digital-age journalistic practices of both the irritating and appreciated variety. As I was reading, a video advertisement popped up and hid the text. I don’t really mind most of the less intrusive ads at the sides or top of the screen.

But the nearly full-screen ad, like so much of digital communication today, just seemed rude. Then there was a statement in the article attributed to a source that appeared to be a last name only.

I checked the preceding paragraphs to see if the source had been identified earlier and I just missed it. It wasn’t. I don’t care if it was linked. Attribution should be clear for every reader, not COIK (clear only if known).

I clicked the link. I spent several long, loooong moments trying to navigate the site until I finally found out the surname was the name of the site and of the founder of a type of journalism educational organization.

I like being able to learn more through links. But it seems like a site produced by an organization dedicated to education for excellence in both traditional and digital journalistic media ought to be a little more careful about clear attribution and a little more user friendly.

Okay, okay, I know. Not only am I getting older and even more behind in digital literacy, I am also getting way more crabby.

But I do like my Kindle!


  1. sadly, i believe newspapers are a thing of the past, i stopped ours 6 years ago and get my news from on line, i have several breaking news set up that comes in for local breakingnews, and i get a link each day from our daily newspapper. they have changed now and we must view an add before we can view the article. which i don't like, but they have to generate income. it will put a lot of people out of a job. my friend has a son who works for a newspaper in GA and his job is all those ads that are put in the news paper, his hours were cut back and he may lose his job.

  2. I am real sorry to hear that newspapers are hurting. Ours has had to remove some sections, so many people read them on line now. I truly hope that they will not become a thing of the past. I love real newspapers, even the smell of the ink!!!

  3. I subscribe to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser ONLINE DAILY as well as the PRINTED version (FRI, SAT, SUNDAY ONLY).

    David likes to look at the coupons and special sales which can be found only in the printed 3-day weekend version, so that explains why we have both. He also likes to check the schedule for the movie theaters, and that also is in the printed version.

    This type of subscription (digital and printed) suits us just fine.

  4. It is so sad but I know I am also part of the problem. I used to love my Sunday paper and would enjoy my coffee and preusing the articles.
    The paper kept getting smaller and smaller and then one Sunday, I just didn't get one.
    I do get my news electronically these days and can see where the newspaper will someday just be part of history.Sad.