Monday, June 26th, 2017

Not everyone likes print media’s push toward news online

By MARTHA TOWNS

As Joni Mitchell once sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”

The grammar may be off a tad but the sentiment fits the case exactly; who knew they would take our daily paper away from us and change the whole way that news is now disseminated. Okay, so there are only two days a week when the “Plain Dealer” is not delivered to our homes, but breakfast just doesn’t seem the same without a newspaper in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

And yes, we do get all of the comic strips without which I simply could not exist. Now they come two days at a time which is sort of fun but not enough to make me miss that newspaper on the front porch every morning. Sorry, but reading the news on a screen just doesn’t do it for me. And, to make things worse, we never received the Sunday “New York Times” which was promised for us on Monday morning and it wasn’t there. It took the edge off the whole day.

Now, I have been around long enough to know that one can get used to anything if one only tries and I’m not opposed to change as long as it’s change I like. In time we will forget that newspapers used to come to us printed on actual newsprint. We will either learn to get our news online, which “they” are devoutly hoping will happen or (insert shudder here) we will have to get our news from television or, (unthinkable) simply do without.

Ted Diadiun, the PD’s Reader Representative, is the only source we seem to have who has at least tried to explain what’s going on to us hapless readers. He told us who some of the people were who lost their jobs and what changes were going to be made within the remaining staff. Subsequently he explained how the emphasis has gone from print journalism to online journalism and it is here that I have trouble.

Maybe if I hadn’t started in journalism so long ago when the weekly paper came off a flatbed press and the smell of printer’s ink filled the air, I would be able to make the transition to online journalism more smoothly. It seems to me there is a huge difference between holding a newspaper in your hands and sitting in front of a screen where you can only get your news in bits and bites. It seems to me that the online version has no soul, only pixels.

Then there is this: unless you have time in the morning to sit at your computer and read the news one page at a time or one story at a time, you are going to be out of luck. And, as was said, the online news will be constantly updated, so you will be out of date if you aren’t checking periodically all day long. Who is going to do that except someone whose workday involves being on a computer full time?

And I wonder about the act of reporting. Reporters, as a rule, go out and get the story, return to home base and write it, then submit it to an editor. Things get a little hectic as deadlines approach but that’s part of the fun. Now, if I understand the system correctly, the reporters will basically be on a deadline all the time with the aim of getting that news story online before someone else does. It sounds like an enormous amount of pressure to me.

Now, truth be told, I am glad I don’t have to transition to online journalism. I am well aware that today’s journalism students will never know how it used to be in the olden days. Wait, wasn’t that just last month?

They will learn to work harder and faster and, undoubtedly, smarter. But there is no romance in pixels and no thrill to see your byline on a screen that can be erased in seconds. No one even uses pencil and pad to interview someone anymore. It’s all done with a tape recorder. The ramifications to all these changes go far beyond those who report the news and those of us who receive it. In a way, it all starts with strong men in plaid shirts poling huge logs down a river, logs that will be turned into newsprint. It ends with huge rolls of newsprint being installed on a press.

Newsprint used to be the cheapest paper one could buy; the price has gone sky high in recent years. So maybe even that has contributed to the enormous changes we

are seeing today. I always thought those enormous rolls of newsprint were exciting and that watching a paper come off the press was a big thrill. I still love the smell of printer’s ink though it’s been a while since I’ve been in a press room.

We here at Currents hope you are enjoying this newspaper that comes to you as it always has.

           

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