May 21, 2010
Maximizing Return on News
I finally bit the bullet.
I knew the day was coming. It was time to experience life without the print edition of The New York Times.
As a baby boomer, I accept and often embrace change – especially the technological advances out there. Once a devoted letter writer (stationary, sealing wax – the works), I find email to be a brilliant alternative. I also love digital cameras, DVRs, iPods, GPS systems, Facebook and breaking news alerts. Texting is really cool and Blackberries – what can I say – addictive but amazing devices. Tweeting, poking, foursquaring – bring it on – it’s all good to me.
So why was I ditching the actual ‘hold-in-your hands’ New York Times? I could save some bucks, help the planet by going paperless, unclutter my apartment a bit and not be so ‘old school’ as my son would say. After all, what could be so tough about reading the newspaper exclusively on a computer screen?
My whole life seemed wrapped up in the Times. Some of the strongest memories I have of my dad, a commuter who worked in the City, was watching him perfect the four-way fold so the broadsheet could be read while riding the train without knocking anyone’s eye out.
Once home, he would read the Times from cover to cover still in its folded state. In fourth grade, he would help me with my current affairs homework by going over the lead stories of the day. I’d pick the one I liked, cut it out and then press out the creases left from his fold and attach it to my report.
By sixth grade, I was a New York Times snob. Let others report on stories from the Long Island Star-Journal. Not me. Only the Times.
Years later, when I taught sixth-graders, I had the Times delivered to the classroom. Soon I gave up on the classroom, followed my passion and joined the newsroom, becoming a writer for a weekly New Jersey newspaper and a freelancer for the Star-Ledger.
So my newspaper roots run very deep. The demise of some of the country’s finest papers, the ongoing staff cutbacks and the thinness of most editions is hard to accept – but it’s the loss of a whole generation of readers that really tells the story.
But try it I would. Life without print couldn’t be that bad. I was ready to taste the future.
Week one. It was brutal. I would salivate passing a newsstand and grab the paper at work whenever possible. I knew that was cheating since I really was trying to get comfortable with exclusively online news.
Sundays were the hardest. My apartment looked naked without all those glorious sections tossed around: The Book Review, Arts and Leisure, the Magazine section, Sunday Styles, and yes even the Sports section – loved them all!
Week Two. I was calmer, but still uneasy. Wasn’t sure what to do when I drank my tea in the morning.
Soon a month had passed since I had last opened my front door and saw my inviting newspaper just waiting to be grabbed, coddled, examined and then tucked away for lengthier perusal.
So what did I discover?
Online, you get the benefit of some informative and eye opening comments from editorial readers; the Most Popular Stories list is compelling; the videos and slide shows are enhancements; notes from the newsroom on grammar usage and style is very enlightening; even Florence Fabricant has an advice column!
But I missed not seeing the full first page – the touchy feely element or just carrying the paper around (lighter than ever) to read on the subway or on a bench in Madison Square Park; impulsively tearing out the puzzle, or a restaurant review or an editorial (to quote when arguing politics) or something work-related; walking around with my Times for brownie points for my superior intelligence (ok, it started in school and I always think about my Dad).
Finally, I realized you really can’t balance out the pros vs. the cons. Saving money is nice but saving a way of life – well, that’s better. Giving up an actual newspaper that I have cherished for so long was much more difficult that I had imagined. More importantly, I need to continue to show my support for the industry as long as the printing presses are rolling.
Last week I re-upped my seven days a week subscription. I may try again to quit one of these days, but for now I’m sticking with the Old Gray Lady until I go broke or she folds – whichever comes first.
Posted by: Susan Graziano, Senior Vice President