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home : blogs_old : off the cuff August 1, 2014

Off the Cuff
By Chris A. Porter
WNI Web Developer and PVtrib.com webmaster shares his perspective on technology, local and national politics, and life in the Quad-city area.
Thursday, March 19, 2009

Online News - The Price of Print?

 Chris A. Porter

The unstable future of print journalism industry has been rocked yet again recently as a result of our current economic downturn being felt across the board by many Americans these days. Colorado's Rocky Mountain News was forced to close its doors on February 27, 2009 - a mere 55 days away from commemorating its 150 year anniversary.

The 146-year old Seattle Post-Intellegencer produced its final print edition on March 17 transitioning to an online-only format. With a circulation of over 117,600 daily readers, the PI is the largest daily publication to go entirely digital. As an avid reader of many news sources, a "news junkie" if you will, I was a bit alarmed by these announcements.

Even though I wasn't a subscriber to the RMN or PI print publication, the news still leaves quite an impact. I'll readily admit as a 'web guy' that this form of media is my bread and butter. It's what I make a living doing, and I cherish every minute I'm allowed to be a part of its hopeful success. It is likely to become the standard for how we will all receive the bulk of our communication, entertainment and information in the future. This should be fantastic news for my industry!

Unfortunately, I don't much feel like dancing. Our ever looming economy has knocked me around too much lately to smile. Watching centuries old editorial institutions die off is no fun. Seeing their faithful staffers given the axe after decades of literary contributions because bottom lines can no longer be met is also painful. As my thoughts are with them, apparently, this seems the direction many of these things are headed towards. Streamline and head out on that information superhighway - or die. Some say it's the precedent for our forseeable future and we should have seen it coming. Perhaps. Personally, to believe that the power of print publication medium will totally dry up and wither someday seems profoundly tragic, cynical and unrealistic to me. My greatest wish is that I never see that come to fruition.

I already receive the bulk of my connection to national/world news via online sources, yet still find the printed page to be an integral part of my daily routine. For example, I enjoy frequenting our town's fine eating establishments for a hearty breakfast on my days off. On any given weekend, finding me perusing our Trib, Daily Courier or any of our other Quad-city print publications while devouring my chicken fried steak & eggs at Zeke's, IHOP or the Apple Pan is a very common tradition with me. I have held the printed page in high regard my entire life. It's a part of my overall literary nourishment. If i'm up-to-date on my community goings-on, then i'll splurge and pick up the latest USA Today or Wall Street Journal. If I have become hip to the world and nation, then I'll pick up the latest PopSci or Motor Trend magazines. If I have neither, a book will suffice.

In some unforseen reason I can't procure some sort of printed pages into my grubby hands during this downtime, I become cranky and can't properly enjoy my meal. I can't rationally explain it - it's just how I roll, I suppose.

In this circumstance I could bring a laptop and eat at places with free wi-fi. A very practical suggestion, but one I have no interest in entertaining. To me, staring across a table at a computer screen while enjoying a meal would be so... impersonal. Again, I can't explain why - it just is.

I'm sure this attitude likely pigeonholes me to a minority category for people in my line of work, especially to folks in the industry younger than me, but I don't care. I just think sometimes there isn't a suitable substitute for the printed page.

There, I said it. Now the next thing you know, I'll be wearing black socks and suspenders with shorts while cursing at 'those darn kids' to stay off my lawn. *sigh* Yes, getting older sometimes bites, but that's a whole other blog...

Maybe print publications are a generational thing. I can remember a time when suggesting that one would be able to check their local, national and world news instantly, wirelessly via personal computer or even on a (then non-existent) hand held PDA/cellphone would have gotten me laughed out of any technical pitch meeting. Yet times have definitely changed, but how much?

Perhaps I'm not totally alone in my stubbornness to completely mothball the printed page, however. Maybe this is why traditional comic books still sell well, and the industry hasn't been reduced to rubble due to their online counterparts. Maybe this is why every man, woman and child isn't reading on a Kindle yet. Food for thought.

What do you think about the future of print? Your thoughts are welcome.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Article comment by: Had Enuff Technology

This is sad, but what did you expect? "Going paperless" also means "Going NEWSpaperless". Progress is not always a good thing.

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2009
Article comment by: Richard

I am in the same industry as you and I agree completely. There are times when I just enjoy holding the printed page in my hand, whether at a restaurant or sitting on my bed at night. The printed page and I have a relationship that I hope does not ever have to end. Don't get me wrong, I love the Web and all that it offers for fast, immediate online information or e-commerce, but there are those times when I don't want fast or immediate -- I just want to enjoy the experience and slow down in a world that seems to lack a pause button.

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