“Newspapers … Black and White but Never Re[a]d and Therefore Dead”
At the beginning of April, I came across a web article where the New York Times Editor Bill Kerry stated that “Saving the New York Times now ranks with saving Darfur as a high-minded cause.” I was absolutely stunned by this opinion for a number of reasons. First being the ironic aspect that without disasters such as Darfur, Somalia, Virginia Tech etc. etc. most of these print rags wouldn’t have anything to pontificate their Liberal views about. As a result, Bill thinks the industry based on talking about what other people do is more important than the actual event. Second is an assumption that the emerging generations do not actually bother getting their fingers dirty reading newspapers. There are way to many avenues for information flow these days from the ubiquitous nature of the web and the instant gratification of a Tweet. Additionally, once a readership is obtained, the roving journalist is no longer tied to a media outlet much like musicians no longer need the middleman to reach their listeners.
The other major issue newspapers have is the press time lag. As of late, I have been teasing my wife at the breakfast table. She will start reading me an article she finds interesting in the local paper and I’ll quickly give her the details from the Yahoo News, Drudge Report or local news webs I read at least a day or more previously. Quite frankly, the only reason I get the newspaper these days is for the Sunday adds and the Police Beat of the Local Section … with a little effort I could even obtain this information on the web.
But there is still one reason Bill’s comments are way off base. That reason is pure and simply the fact most articles are horribly written or do not focus on the aspects I want to know and care about. I have scanned in a few articles from our paper to help prove this point. Follow the jump to see them.
Starting with the following article where a teen robbed a band but felt guilty enough to return the money and ask for a hug.
According to the article, the teen held up Dunkin’ Donuts at 3am only to return it 24 hours later. However, when doing this he realized the clerk didn’t speak English and decided to leave a note instead. Now all I want to know is about the clerk not speaking English. If this was not important to pursue, why was it slipped in. Does Dunkin’ Donuts have a hiring practice that allows clerks who cannot speak the native language. If so, I am going to have a problem giving them an order if I go in there. Was this a clever trick by the clerk to thwart a second robbery attempt and what led the teen to think a note would actually be a better communication mechanism? Not a real big issue, but I’m still left hanging.
But it definitely gets worse. Take for example the following blurb concerning a priest who ran over a group of churchgoers. It has the attention grabbing headline sufficient to get me to waste precious morning time to dig in and get the details.
Except after reading to the end of the article I have absolutely no idea if this was an accident or a premeditated action. Maybe they stiffed the tithing basket and he exacted some “Thy Neighbor” revenge. Nothing at all and not even the over used crutch of stating they got the information from a source they can’t reveal because “they were not authorized to talk to them”. Which brings us to articles that are blatantly wrong as in the following example. Anyone in my industry has been watching the news about the downfall of Sun and potential options for acquisition. IBM was in the midst of trying to close the deal which eventually fell through.
No less than two days later our paper runs an eye popping headline indicating that the Microsoft’s acquisition of Sun had stalled. Wow, I didn’t even know they were even looking at Sun and fascinated since historically they have been aggressive enemies. This prompts me again to spend valuable breakfast time to get up to speed on this industry changing event. Four IBM references later I get to the bottom without one mention of Microsoft. I even read it again. Yes folks, the article heading was totally bogus. Note, every single web article I read on the negotiations had the interested parties identified correctly.
I threw in the following clipping just because I read it three times and had my wife attempt to explain it as well. Drawing your attention to the outlined area, see if this sounds strange to you.
Apparently the identified man saw some women fighting and fired his gun in the air (law violation) breaking up the fight and then proceeded to leave with two of the three women. For some reason he exits the car after a short distance in order to give his gun to the third lady. Seizing on the opportunity she started firing at the woman in the car (he just left). I am dying to know more about the guy in this article. Is he going to jail? What caused him to change his mind? Did he know all the people involved? I’ll hit the web later and get the details. Until then I’ll let you make your own opinions whether stopping ethnic cleansing is more important than a single source in a highly redundant news industry.
For those interested, I picked the birth of Newspapers at 1690 representing the supposed first paper publication in Boston by a Benjamin Harris. I also got tired of trying to find a royalty free tombstone so dug back into my digital picture archives and used an image I had shot while visiting a New Orleans above ground cemetery.