Extra! Extra! Read all about it.

Well, it’s finally happening. I hoped this day wouldn’t come, but I have to admit it: I’m starting to wonder if I should cancel my subscription to the New York Times.

Here’s why:

1.    It comes in a blue plastic wrapper every day, even though it only rains in LA about six times a year. Ever since I read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a giant mass of plastic twice the size of Texas, I’ve become obsessed with cutting down my plastic consumption. No more throwaway water bottles – get reusable ones, people! So how can I countenance being responsible for 365 blue plastic bags every year?

great_pacific_garbage

2.    It costs something like $400 a year for home delivery – yikes!

3.    Each morning, I find myself reading the Sports section – which has very little in the way of updated scores anyway, since the paper goes to press well before West Coast games are played – and then turning immediately to the Internet, to read blogs and online news sites for the latest news. This means that…

4.    … Newspapers aren’t really a source for breaking news anymore, which means that many articles are magazine-y in nature. The NYT’s articles on style, science, business, arts, etc. are the kind of thing you can choose to read whenever. And I don’t necessarily want to read magazine-style articles first thing in the morning – I want to know what’s new. This leads to the papers piling up on the kitchen table, until I find the time / inclination to read them.

nyt

5.    Yeah, the ink is a pain in the neck, and the big pages are unwieldy. Also, it’s a waste of paper and an unnecessary expenditure of gas to deliver hard copies to people individually.

All the same, I hate to cancel the paper. For one thing, I worry that all the newspapers are going out of business, which is a bad thing, at least in the short term, in terms of checks and balances. Newspapers do fulfill a necessary, even vital, service, even though they’re routinely vilified – not only by the right, but now by everyone. I’m a believer in the old maxim that newspapers exist at least in part to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” but the relentless assault on the press over the years has cowed reporters, and the whole profession of journalism has become something to mock rather than respect.

Someone recently argued to me that it’s not the newspapers that are so vital; it’s the reporting. Meaning that if the daily paper dies, we just have to find another model that will allow for investigative reporting. Fair enough, but I’m not sure how this would be funded, as people seem to expect that their online news will always be free. But I’m starting to concede that there’s no alternative, because newspapers are dying so quickly. Organizations like ProPublica are springing up to fill the void, but we’ll see whether that model – non-profit funding of investigative reporting – can last.

I’ll miss finding the printed paper at my doorstep every morning, and sitting down to peruse it over breakfast. But admittedly, I’ll miss it less than I would have a few years ago. Since I moved to LA, I’ve been getting the New York Times rather than the LA Times, and I don’t feel as connected to my community as I did in DC. I hate to become another statistic on how longtime newspaper readers are dropping the habit, but it’s starting to seem inevitable. In fact, I doubt that newspapers wi’ll be even around in their current form in five years’ time – maybe less.

And I might even have to trade in my rotary phone and teletype machine, too.

9 responses to “Extra! Extra! Read all about it.”

  1. Rachel says:

    Ah, Parrish, I empathize. The sheer quantity of paper I put out for recycling is apalling, yet I love the experience of settling in with a newspaper or magazine–computers, however convenient, can’t beat it for tactile satisfaction.

    My solution re: the NYT is just to get the Sunday edition. It’s a cop-out as far as real news is concerned, but the in-depth articles are great, and I still feel connected to the paper. Shame about the incredible shrinking NYT Magazine, though.

    Oh, and the plastic sleeve is pretty handy when a couple feet of snow is on the ground. I reuse them to assuage a bit of the guilt.

    p.s. This is the year I let my subscription to The New Yorker lapse. So much to read & not enough time!

  2. swells says:

    Perhaps this is stating the obvious for dog owners, but the blue bag is absolutely the perfect size, depth, and width to pick up a poo. (Your dog’s, I mean.) The added bonus is that the color is so unmistakable that everyone knows what kind of person you are. What’s that? That dog across the street is having its poo picked up in a yellow bag? So its owner is a Long Beach Press Telegram reader, huh? Oh, no no no no no no no no no. Quick, try to make the dog have to go so we can whip out the blue bag. That’s right–we read the New York Times.

    I won’t be canceling my subscription anytime soon.

  3. Solie Gottlieb says:

    My way out of the addiction — I really used to feel an experience of loss if I didn’t have a morning paper to peruse — was the eco-harm that the industry inflicts: there is the plastic; we covered that. But the ink is super toxic, and the chemicals used to clean the plates are even more toxic — believe old uncle Solie; he used to work in a print shop. Also, there’s the transportation, and the carbon cost of removing all of that paper and recycling it. Oy Vey!

    The cure for me was a reliable laptop — nice and portable for any chair in the living room — and NY Times.com for the news, and LA Times.com for sports.

  4. Dave says:

    The one thing I miss about getting the printed paper is how easy it is to glance at all the little stories I’d never read online; I can be surprised by news more easily and have my knowledge broadened a bit.

    The post alludes to a debate going on right now about what will be lost as newspapers keep cutting their newsroom staffs or even fold completely. There’s no doubt that we need a tenacious, free, and public-spirited press in order to have a truly democratic society. And even though we don’t have such a press right now, what we have is better than nothing. It’s an open question whether we’ll find other ways of funding the vital work of real reporting — covering City Council meetings, ferreting out corruption, presenting a view of events that’s a little more accurate than the spin coming from political actors, etc. — or whether our news media will become even more beholden to the forces of superficiality and entertainment.

  5. lane says:

    i can’t get over that huge plastic island in the pacific . . .

    so creepy, cancel, just for that, cancel.

  6. LP says:

    4: Yes, I feel the same way about being able to glimpse interesting stories when flipping through the printed paper. It’s one of the great joys of reading a newspaper, and online news sites don’t really convey it. But the NYT does have a different site that comes close: It’s called Article Skimmer.

    5: The plastic garbage mass is FREAKY. Here’s more info, from the TED conference. Send this link to everyone you know, and ask them to use REUSABLE bags at the grocery store! And no more plastic water bottles!

  7. Ivy says:

    Re 2: that is the great dilemma for dog owners – cut down on plastic bags and then what? BUY bags for dog turds? Seems utterly ridiculous. At present my dog’s and my rubbish bin’s bag needs are supplied by my supermarket. But once that gets phased out, then what? I don’t create a lot of rubbish, what with recycling and composting food waste, but I am a bit paranoid to put dog dos in the compost. (Just because I am a dog owner, I am no more fond of the byproducts than anyone else, believe me.) Even though I am somewhat embarrassed to be the owner of a little dog (I ask you), I figure that if he was bigger it would only be worse.
    And yes, that pile of crapola in the Pacific is one of the most disturbing things ever. Anything we can do to minimise that has to be a good thing. DItch the paper, online is fine.

  8. Dave says:

    Here’s a bit of media criticism that provides a bit of optimism about the changes in news media that are happening right now.

    Also, that Article Skimmer thing is pretty cool.