If you are reading this, you are my hero. No, I’m not talking about my column; I mean this newspaper.
You’re my hero because I make my living in newspapers and fewer people are reading them.
Even if I got fired tomorrow, or hit the lottery and retired, I’d still be grateful to you because I love newspapers, and don’t want to see them fade out like horse buggies.
I doubt that will happen, but more than ever, newspapers are getting squeezed by the kind of competition no one ever thought about 30 years ago, or 20. Or even 10.
Thirty years ago, there were no 24-hour cable news channels. Twenty years ago, we didn’t have Internet news sites, or barely. Ten years ago, we in the business didn’t have to worry about blogs or news alerts on Blackberrys.
Now, we face all of those things and more. In an unsettling sign of things, the New York Times just announced plans to cut 500 jobs, many of them from its newsroom. Other papers are doing the same.
It’s because of new kinds of competition.
Some of it is financial competition. Not that long ago, families paid for one phone line and one newspaper, and that was their communications budget.
Now it’s two landlines, three or four cell phones, high-speed Internet, cable television and other things like virus protection and satellite radio.
That adds up to thousands per year. So people have to decide what to drop.
The marketplace is about competition and newspapers have to know that if we don’t keep up, we’ll get squeezed out. I’m sure there are plenty of things we should do differently, and if you want to tell me, I’ll be the first to pass it on to the boss.
But speaking for myself, I don’t see how anyone gets through a week without newspapers.
A breakfast table doesn’t feel right without newspaper sections spread all over it. There’s just something about the printed word. I check news online all the time; I love the Internet _ but I don’t want to have a morning cup of coffee clicking from story to story with a mouse. I want to turn pages.
I like 24-hour cable news, too. It’s helpful to get information anytime I want in half-hour bursts.
But I also like depth. It’s worth remembering you can fit the transcript of a half-hour news broadcast onto one third of the front page of a full-sheet newspaper.
Yes, there are now plenty of news shows, many of which are shoutfests. Still, they can be informative, or at least thought-provoking.
But they’re not writing.
I like writing. I like feature stories _ one writer’s voice for two or three minutes. That wouldn’t work on television. But it does on the page.
Newspapers have their flaws, but the best ones are very good at sifting through mountains of information to come with what’s most important each day, and what’s most interesting. There’s no other package that captures both the world and your backyard as well.
A newspaper is a living thing. More so than an Internet site, you feel it’s your friend; one that may make you angry sometimes, but one that’s always there, predictable, loyal.
I’m also convinced it’s the only manufactured product that’s completely redesigned and produced anew by a factory every day.
At 50 cents, or 75 cents, or even a buck, it’s the best deal in America. Show me another product at that price that offers as much.
It would break my heart if that began to fade out of our lives, and out of the life of the country.
That’s why you’re my hero for reading this.
(Mark Patinkin can be reached at mpatinkin (at) projo.com.)