While I was at the hospital with my daughter, I had plenty of time to catch up on my newspaper reading. I'm a lifelong newspaper subscriber, but sometimes I don't have time to do more than scan the headlines.
Once, I enjoyed reading the newspaper from front to back. I read everything from the news to sports to business to entertainment. Sometimes I even scanned the ad pages, looking for oddities like weird personal announcements.
I can't remember the last time I did this. I began to wonder if it was my lack of time that had made my newspaper reading decline or was it something else.
As I read the extended coverage of the Michael Jackson event, I reached a rather startling conclusion. I don't read the newspaper much any more because it's nothing special. I can get the same coverage online or on TV. Gosh, I hate making a statement like that, but it's true.
For the first time, I really looked at the newspaper in my hands. When had it shrunk so much? The width and length of the pages are barely more than a countertop giveaway paper. The thickness of each daily paper is about the same as a countertop periodical. The Sunday edition is larger because it's packed with glossy advertisements, though even those are much fewer than a year ago.
The real problem though is that the newspaper has lost its identity. Formerly, it was a source of "real" news. Now, it's a source of "reel" news, kind of like a print version of Entertainment Tonight. Even the way articles are written has changed. Now, they read as if written by a high school kid, complete with the syntax and vocabulary used by that group.
No longer do you find journalism. Now you get introductory paragraphs that are laughable because of the purple prose. You get entire sections of the newspaper aimed at a target audience of 18 - 25 year olds, but the bean counters calling the shots at newspapers don't realize that this target audience does NOT subscribe to newspapers. In fact, they rarely read newspapers.
Newspapers are dying, not so much because of the Internet offering free news, but because they've lost sight of what makes them special.