Friday, March 20, 2009

The Las Vegas RJ: Every Day Whether You Want It Or Not

In case you haven’t heard, the media has pronounced the daily newspaper dead. Last month, Time proposed that newspapers charge for their online content to increase their sinking profits. Late-night host Bill Maher wondered where we’re going to get our news once all the reporters are gone, a sentiment that local Las Vegas Sun editor Brian Greenspun echoed in his editorial, “If there’s no paper, where will news come from?”

Do we really think that if the printed daily newspaper dies—which looks pretty imminent, by the way—that all the reporters will move to… Mars? Are we afraid that they’ll all jump off the nearest cliff, lemming-like, following their managing editors into the sea? Come on, folks. Newspapers aren’t going to die. They’re just going to change.

People may have to get over their terrible Blogger Fear, for instance. Here’s the gist of what I’ve read and heard: since bloggers get their news from newspapers, after newspapers die and all the journalists throw themselves upon their… their… oh heck, journalists don’t even own anything sharp they can throw themselves upon. Anyway, in the post-newspaper world, the unreliable and untrained bloggers will swarm in to fill the void and spread rotten news to the masses. Can’t you just see all the professional journalists reaching for a paper bag to breath into?
Not every blogger is an untrained writer. Yes, many lousy blogs exist. The last time I checked, we had an abundance of lousy printed material as well. Even if newspapers did cease and bloggers did rush to fill cyberspace with garbage, the real journalists will still be here. Really. All the same people who currently bring you the news will still be here when the news changes. They might be out of work at the moment, but I doubt they'll sit idly by when the opportunites arise for them to report again. Newspapers and magazines have been hit hard in this economy, along with many other business. They aren't the only ones losing money and jobs. Papers are already migrating content onto the Web, and even reporters and editors are writing blogs. People want to get news, and a whole bunch of us like writing about it. I believe that some forward-thinking person(s) out there will find a new way for newspapers to exist. Will that future include a daily piece of something printed and delivered? That’s a good question. If the Las Vegas Review Journal has its way, you’re getting a paper every day, whether you want it or not.

After I switched my subscription to weekends only, the RJ kept calling to ask about delivering the paper every day. At first I was nice, but after the fifth or sixth call, I had to get firmer. No, nothing was wrong with the paper, I assured them. I just didn’t want to get one every single day. “Why do I want to pay for something I’m putting in the recycling bin?” I told the caller. In February, the RJ sent me a letter that extolled the virtues of the daily paper. They wrote, “We want all subscribers to enjoy and utilize the newspaper seven days a week, not the weekend. Therefore, as of February 25, 2009, your current subscription will become a 7 day, full week subscription at no additional cost to you.”

What would we call this strategy? Woo and Wham? Court and Coerce? Persuade and Persist? Newspapers have a long and colorful history, full of scrappy and inventive people, and I don’t think that will change. Obviously, journalists will find a way to report the news, even if they have to make you read it.
Photo courtesy of Johnny DiBiasi at

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