Monday, March 28, 2011

Ditching the Paper

Greetings Friends,

It's official; Election Day here in Canada will be on May 2. Typically, I will want to absorb as much political news as I possibly can; this has been my M.O. ever since I turned 18 and attained the right to vote. All the pundits in this country are grousing about the lack of necessity for this particular election, but I happen to be excited about it. So why did I cancel my newspaper subscription on Saturday?

About a week after I moved into my new place, a nice kid knocked on my door one afternoon, offering me a free 16 week trial subscription to the National Post. I accepted, and a few days later, the paper began landing on my doorstep. The problem is, I never even read it. I flipped through the sections, but never opened one up to read an actual article. I was still getting the majority of my news online and on television. I used to be an avid newspaper reader, but it became obvious that my need for an actual print edition of a newspaper is superfluous. Then why did I agree to the subscription? I believe my guilt over not reading newspapers anymore got the better of me. 

I've been living during a time where technology has changed so much of our daily lives. I've gone from envying people's ability to fold the New York Times like origami, to envying people with iPads. It used to be that you were not considered a well-informed individual unless you read a newspaper daily. Now, you're not well informed if you don't have any media apps on your smart phone. I happen to have 8. And the inherent guilt I felt over this made me agree to a newspaper subscription which I wound up cancelling after only 4 weeks.

The sad fact is, newspapers have indeed become superfluous, extraneous - dare I say it - unnecessary. Hang me for treason, but you and I both know it's true. 30 years ago, the popular lament was, "Video killed the radio star" when MTV signed on the air. Now, the Internet has put a bullet through the heart of journalism. This is old news, I know, but my last ditch effort to be loyal to print has essentially gone down in flames. There was no newspaper outside my front door this morning. To tell the truth, I'm not all that upset about it. If I lost my Internet connection, I'd be freaking; not only is it my source of income, it is my source of information as well. And print is the collateral damage in my quest to make an honest living.

When I was in graduate school, some of my professors used to scoff at us because of the access we had to online research databases through my alma mater's Web site. It was convenient when writing papers to just search scholarly journals online, whenever, as opposed to schlepping over to the library. But for those who came before me who had no choice but to rummage through the stacks, there was palpable annoyance. Not that finding a book in a library is difficult; but you can't exactly do it at 3:00 in the morning in your jammies; unless it's finals week and the library is open 24/7. Same with reading a newspaper. You don't have to partake in a Tony Soprano-style perp walk down the driveway in your bathrobe to retrieve your paper - you just punch it up online.

Last week the New York Times announced its plan to start charging users if they view more than 20 online articles per month. Print subscribers will get to enjoy access to their Web site for free. Which begs the question: why do you need both? Now that everyone and their brother has a smart phone and/or a tablet, what's the point of having an actual newspaper? I hate to say this, but I think the death of the newspaper is going to happen much quicker than we think. And yes, this is partly my guilt talking for cancelling my subscription.

I'm still not sure I want to live in a world without newspapers, but there will soon be an entire generation of humans that will likely go through life not knowing what one is. That's sad, but technology will keep advancing regardless of what I think. At this point, I feel that as long as I have an Internet connection, I'll be able to deal with it. When the time comes, I will honestly mourn the death of the newspaper, but I don't think I'll have a particularly large crowd of mourners to keep me company.


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