Saturday, April 30, 2005

What Use is a Newspaper?

I sat down today, like I do most days, to read the Washington Post. It is not one of the best newspapers in the US, but it is the best daily in DC, and I am old enough to have been conditioned to think that one should read the local papers. As I finished I realized that I had skimmed through the front section without reading any of the articles. Thinking about this for a minute or two I realized that that is what I usually do: skim the headlines and ignore the articles. This is not true for the business, sports, entertainment, and other sections; those I usually read in detail. The news sections, however, I tended to ignore. Newspapers, for me, have stopped being about news. Over the past year or two I have been getting almost all of my news from the internet. Google's excellent news site allows me to keep up with breaking news several times a day. Several stories about an event are only a click away. By the time that the morning paper arrives the "news" stories seem hopelessly out of date. For example, today's Washington Post contained an article about a Florida woman who had been kidnapped from her own wedding. However, before my paper even made it to the breakfast table I had read an on-line article about how she had faked her own kidnapping in a case cold feet. The "news" in the newspaper was worse than old, it was obsolete. The rĂ´le of the print media is no longer to provide news. It is to provide the in-depth information that I do not have the time to read during my daily Web surfing. If newspapers are to survive they are going to need to provide content that can not be delivered to my laptop over the home WiFi network. Headlines, the score of last night's Capitals-Canucks game, and stock quotes are not relevant to modern newspapers. In-depth articles about what is happening in the world, opinion pieces, detailed analyses of DC United's chances this summer, and comprehensive reviews of local events and offerings are. In other words, I want my newspaper to provide timely information that is not easy to get online. If my local newspaper does not do this, I probably will not buy it--or miss it.