Today, I am newspaper free

by JS O’Brien

I cancelled my last newspaper subscription just a few minutes ago.  I used to get two newspapers delivered every day.  I cancelled the first one when I got tired of calling circulation to get the paper that was supposed to be delivered in the morning delivered, eventually, whenever they got around to it.  I figured I would cancel just for a while to make a point, but a strange thing happened.Â

I found I didn’t miss it.

Today, I cancelled my local paper.  I have been loyal to the locals for some time because I believe in journalism, I believe in supporting journalism, and because I love newspapers.  I love the morning ritual of settling in with a cup of hot caffeine and leafing through the news.  I don’t like the ink on my fingers, but it has always seemed a small price to pay for one of life’s pleasures.  The problem is that I found myself forgetting that the local paper was even there.  I would go deep into the day before realizing that I hadn’t picked up the paper, screaming at me from inside its orange plastic wrapper on my driveway.Â

I finally asked myself, “If I don’t even remember that the paper is there, even though I have a strong force of habit to get up in the morning and retrieve it, how bad must the paper have become?”

The answer:  Pretty bad.  Irrelevant, really.  The writing is pedestrian at best, annoyingly immature a great deal of the time (the average age of the reporters at my local must be around 26), and — well — kinda cute, but not in a goodcute way.  The former opinion editor wrote some readable stuff about twice a week, but the new one is deep as piss on a rock.  Recently, they’ve hired a new columnist who is simply stupid.  I mean it.  I’ve met her.  She’s dumb as decoupage.  Even when she agrees with me, it’s for inane reasons.

I’m very sad.  I miss good journalism.

Maybe I’ll get the Sunday New York Times delivered … until it tanks, too.

Categories: Journalism

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9 replies »

  1. I admire your resiliency re: your local paper. From my perspective they pretty much sucked by the time I moved here in 1993 and not much had happened to make things better since then. I don’t have the deep knowledge of the rag that you do, so my opinion is less informed by far, but suffice it to say that I never saw any reason to subscribe in the first place – especially not with two far better dailies down the road.

    Of course, those papers are hardly shining beacons of journalistic hope, either.

    In any case, there’s no reason you should be more committed to their journalistic missions than they are, huh?

  2. You used the “Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!” word — “irrelevant.” Sadly, that’s what too many newspapers readers have decided over the past few years.

    I no longer subscribe to my local newspaper here, either, because it is irrelevant to the town in which I live (save for local high school sports, of course, which I don’t follow).

    What would make it relevant? What would make all these hometown papers relevant?

    Simple. Cover what they used to before the long budget knives excised the staff reporters (and circulation and ad and press people) who used to cover all those relevant things.

    As I’ve written time and again here, newspaper managements have focused on maintaining a profit margin on declining revenue to satisfy institutional investors.

    It hasn’t worked. No effort has truly gone to improve the newspaper by providing better, locally produced stories. Management can point to flashy Web sites and mobile journalists (the dreaded “mojos”) all they wish, but their product has become irrelevant because they allowed it to.

    The journalists in the trenches know this and understand this and lament this. It isn’t their fault. Sam Zell does not a better newspaper make.

  3. I haven’t read the local “newspaper” regularly in years… I have, however, used it for extra credit in my freshman English classes. Since no one on the Express News staff bothers to proofread anything before it goes to press, every page is a bonanza of spelling, grammar and syntax abominations. And content? Breakfast taco comparisons and endless Spurs gossip. All the good old curmudgeons have retired or lapsed into repetitious ranting…


  4. Euphrosyne:

    Well, you’re bringing up a whole new generation of kids who have great respect for journalists, aren’t you?

    That’s as it should be, I guess. Respect has to be earned.

  5. Missing a *good* local newspaper is like the third week in February in Chicago – you become slightly depressed about your city and life, and you become irritable and despondent.

    True, the only good local paper I’ve known in my short life was a weekly two-man show in small town KS, but I think it was because they couldn’t afford a wire service subscription. Really a community paper (a sort of local blog on paper) it had Insightful analysis of issues (mostly the economy re: crop prices or the rise in meth production) done by people who cared about their community and did it to have discussions, not just to fill in the spaces between bra ads.
    I tried the SA Express News when I lived in TX but I couldn’t bring myself to devote that much time to finding the one story worth reading a week, and I only read the free commuter version of the Chicago Tribune now for the crossword.
    Oh if only the local papers turned back to being “local papers” about local issues, and left national bloviating to CNN and Jim Leherer.

  6. Try living in the shadow of LA. I don’t even watch the local news on TV. There’s only so much Paris and Brittney and Lindsey I can take.

  7. Knowing crap when you see it is an essential element of appreciating and creating non-crap. And my kids don’t get to call it out if they can’t define it and fix it, too. I like that.

  8. I grew up with the morning paper routine, and nothing makes me more despondent about the state of society than realizing that it has become pointless. I can’t read the true local…as interested as i am in who caught a big fish…because the whole thing should be covered in red ink.

    I’m down to The Economist which is only a “newspaper” because that’s what they call themselves, and it isn’t American.