Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Going digital is trending: Rustle your local newspaper while you still can

   And so it begins - out with the legacy and in with the newfangled. It’s a slippery slope I never thought I’d be sliding down in my lifetime, but here we go.
   Beginning Feb. 25, the Toledo Blade newspaper ownership will cut its print edition down to five days, meaning readers who love the rustling sound a newspaper makes at the turn of a page will be reading in silence two days a week (those days are yet to be announced) Monday and Tuesday.  
   This move forces readers to go digital, and it will be quite a shock to those who grew up with printed newspapers.
   I worry that subscribers who don’t have a computer or wifi access will miss out on important local news of the day. I worry readers will get angry and quit reading it altogether. I fret that going digital will eventually lead to newsroom staff cuts.
The eBlade. Looks the same as the printed edition, but you can also view videos.
   And I’m sad that future generations of readers will eventually, over time, never know what it’s like to hear those rustling pages and smell that distinct odor of a daily newspaper.
   During the first day of my Wayne State and Owens Community College photojournalism classes last week, I took an unofficial poll on the subject. I asked how many of them actually read a printed newspaper, or even bought one. As you can guess, maybe 2 percent said they did.
   For that very reason, the first assignment for both classes was to buy a newspaper (either the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press or Toledo Blade) and identify the elements (flag, byline, refer). When the WSU students turned in their newspapers Thursday for grading (it's a part of the history lesson, believe it or not), a few told me they felt weird buying a newspaper. One student even said the clerk who sold her the paper looked at her funny. I guess it was an odd occurrence for a young person to actually buy a newspaper. 
   The reading habits of our youth, truth be told, gives us a glimpse into the destiny of newspapers. They are growing up in a digital world, and prefer the tiny screens of their phones, and having content in their pockets, accessible anytime, anywhere.
   It was just a matter of time, I suppose. Sigh. 
   I remember being totally dismayed when the Ann Arbor News, owned by Advanced Publications Inc., boldly cut its print edition down to just two days a week on July 23, 2009, ending a print run after 174 years.
   The Owens Outlook student newspaper went completely digital half a decade ago. As the faculty adviser to the Outlook, I was forced to embrace that move, because it was much cheaper for the college, and, let's face it, the bottom line is what’s driving this national trend.
   Full disclosure here: I actually read both digital forms of The Blade (eBlade and NewsSlide) six days a week, and not the hard copy. A few years ago, during a particularly frigid winter, I ignored my printed newspaper in the mornings, opting to read the eBlade on my 27" MAC instead. So, after some deliberation, I decided to help save the forest and cancel my hard print edition, except for Sundays. I still get the Sunday newspaper, and I look forward to those mornings when I walk down the driveway, pluck my paper stuffed with ads out of the paper box, sit at the dining room table and drink a cup of coffee as I rustle those pages.
Three ways to read the Blade:
The eBlade is an electronic PDF form of the newspaper that's, and it’s cheaper than the hard copy and free to those who subscribe to the printed newspaper. It hits the digital stands about midnight.
NewsSlide is a free mobile and iPad app that's exclusive to The Blade and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Though the app has some of the same stories that's in the printed edition, it also has original content produced just for this platform. NewsSlide is just a little over a year old. Just like the eBlade, it comes out once a day and is not updated.
toledoblade.com is the website, and it's constantly being updated with stories that run on the eBlade, NewsSlide and breaking news. There is a paywall for digital access. You're permitted so many free glances, but after that, it locks down.
   I begrudgingly encourage our dear readers to begin accepting digital newspapers, because corporate ownerships give us no choice. Unfortunately, it is our present and our future. I simply can't imagine a nation without printed pages of newspapers. At least now we have an option. 
   Consider this, though - yes, the way newspapers are disseminated is changing, but not its content. 
Local newspapers are more important than ever, and our free, democratic society will always and forever need journalists to educate and entertain the masses, shine the light on corruption, and report on our heroes.
   That said, I urge you to never give up on newspapers, no matter the platform, because our democracy depends on them.


Rebrites@yahoo.com said...

the content is not the same, Lori. Blade "management" is also cutting columnists and other personnel... or maybe that´s not leaked out yet!

Lori King said...

I said 'much' the same, not 'the same.' I've since changed it to 'some of the same.' And I'm not privy to newsroom cuts, but that's what I said I fret about. I don't like where we are going (completely digital, because of the out-of-sight/out-of-mind syndrome), but the writing is on the wall ... big frowny face

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