The Washington Post while sipping my morning coffee was an important daily ritual that wasn't to be missed. When I travel to other cities, both domestic and international, I try to read at least one local newspaper. Whether it be a large internationally recognized publication or a local arts and entertainment guide, newspapers provide a unique insight into a community. From front page articles to back page advertisements, what gets published (or isn't published) says a lot about a community's culture and values. My favorite part of any newspaper is by far the opinions, editorials, and letters to the editor sections that grace every newspaper. Where else can you get a better sense of the political and social vibe of a community? From editors endorsing right wing candidates to crotchety old men with too much time on their hands, these printed words speak volumes about a city or town. But are print newspapers soon to be a thing of the past?
Last night's 60 Minutes ran a feature on the impending move on the part of New Orleans Times-Picayune to reduce their production from a daily newspaper to one that is printed three times a week. Citing reduced readership combined with increased expenses, the paper's publishers state that this move is the only one that can help keep the newspaper financially solvent. The situation in New Orleans isn't unique; across the United States newspapers of all sizes have been shuttering their presses or reducing their production over the past few years. From Cleveland to Baltimore to Honolulu, dailies are being printed no more. And what happens in a community when the press isn't readily apparent? Even here in Albania, where the media is rampant and partisan to a fault, newspapers play an important role in making information public and in many instances, holding politicians and other public figures accountable for their actions. If reporters weren't so ready to report the news as it happens, how would the rest of us find out about what is happening in our own communities? Many blame the Internet for making print media obsolete but I think that both forms of media can co-exist. Yes we can read about news as it happens on the Internet but not everyone has ready access to the world wide web. Don't these people deserve access to the news as well? Will prolific letter writers continue to submit letters to the editor if it can only be done online? (I think they will but the authors will be a different genre of readers and something is sure to be lost in this transition).
Being separated from home delivery or a local newstand selling the paper, I now read The Washington Post's online version each morning as I drink my coffee. Sure I can click through the articles without having to worry about getting newspaper print on my hands but somehow the experience just isn't the same. It feels cleansed and distanced from the real thing. Missing are advertisements and in their place are annoying pop-up windows. (I also no longer have access to the colorful flyers and coupons that are stuffed into an already think weekend edition). Reader responses to articles are terse snippets rather than thoughtful prose. Maybe I am just dating myself and need to get with the times. I know that without this high tech edition I wouldn't be able to read any of the paper and I should be grateful for that. I am. But I long for all of the sensory images that come from the real deal. I can only hope that the real thing continues and that someday I will be able to fall back into my original age old morning routine.