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Why you should subscribe to your local paper

Last Saturday as I was walking out of the supermarket, I was offered a free newspaper. It wasn’t totally free, I had to listen to a sales pitch on what a great deal a newspaper subscription is. After the frustration and sadness I felt the day before with the Rocky Mountain News closing, his pitch landed on very sympathetic ears. I handed over my credit card number without a great deal of reservation. The first issue of the Salt Lake Tribune was on my drive way this morning.

I love the tactile feel of newsprint. I love the compactness of so much relevant and timely information. I read about questionable contributions to my local senator’s charity by pharmaceutical companies. Nothing illegal, but questionable. I understand that reporting (no, not reporting… investigating) like this took time. It took someone with contacts, someone with experience. It wasn’t done by a blogger, that’s for sure. I’m reminded of a recent David Horsey cartoon depicting President Obama trying to hold a press conference with a bunch of bloggers, facebookers, etc. I don’t want to trust the important task of reporting to a bunch of part-timer (full disclosure, I am one of these!) bloggers. I hate hyperbolic statements, but I hope we understand the fourth establishment is in trouble and if there isn’t anyone with the deep resources to keep investigating and reporting what’s happening in our cities, states and our Union… well, I worry about that day.

I’m enjoying reading my newspaper. It’s a solid product that serves a great benefit to my community. I urge all of my Daily Cartoonist readers, if you don’t already subscribe to your local paper, please call them up and buy a stake – think of it as a share – in your community’s and nation’s future.

Community Comments

#1 Ted Rall
March/3/2009
@ 3:29 pm

I’ve subscribed to newspapers or bought them at the newsstand all my adult life. It’s not to support the industry; it’s to stay informed. And the Internet hasn’t changed that.

No one really reads online. They skim. A lot of headlines; maybe an article or two. And very little serendipity?reading about a topic that you don’t know you care about until after you read it. Sitting in front of a computer isn’t a natural way to absorb news or to read and, in fact, most people don’t actually read that way. That’s why readers of the print edition of the New York Times spend 46 minutes on average reading it, and NYTimes.com readers spend just a few minutes?and that includes breaks. This disparity is also why online ad rates are so low and, in my opinion, are likely to remain low.

And obviously there’s the portability thing. And comics.

People need to understand that reading the paper isn’t something you do because it’s good for you, like exercising, or because you feel guilty, like pledging to NPR. It’s how you remain an engaged citizen, and don’t come off like a tool when you’re hanging out with people who do read the paper. In print, the way God (and most advertisers) intended.

#2 Mike Rhode
March/3/2009
@ 6:51 pm

I tend to agree w/ Ted on this. Another thing about the paper is the serendipity – I find a lot of stuff I don’t know that I’m interested in, just by paging through. For the record, I subscribe to the Wash Post, NY Times and also read the free Washington Examiner, Express (Post-owned), Wash Blade (gay paper – 1 editorial cartoon and 2 strips), Wash City Paper (no cartoons except Dirtfarm – boo), Wash Times (only if it’s free), Arlington Sun-Gazette… The first 2 are daily, the others except for the Times are weekly. The Times has 1 comics page and so does the Express.

#3 Alex Hallatt
March/3/2009
@ 7:45 pm

Yes, it would be a nice gesture to subscribe to the local paper, but it amounts to rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. Local papers can succeed, but they have to provide compelling local content (and that probably means more cartoons with a local focus). They need to get back to grassroots journalism with campaigns that address local issues, keeping local businesses and politicians honest. They should cut out the celebrity nonsense and leave that kind of content to their web editions.

If they don’t, they will fail, even with our help, but the need for local content will fuel the creation of newer, more nimble publications that give readers what they are looking for.

I buy Melbourne’s Age on a Saturday, when it gives me the listings of cultural happenings in town and garage sales in the neighbourhood – things that are not comprehensively covered online.

If we are going to succeed as cartoonists, we will have to provide niche content for local print and/or learn from the web comics guys with online models.

#4 B.J. Dewey
March/3/2009
@ 10:00 pm

Like everyone else, I?d love to see the printed newspaper survive, but know it probably can?t. As a former journalist (newspapers, wire service) and now fledgling cartoonist, I hope whatever new business model replaces the old includes the kind of investigative pieces Alan Gardner mentions – and the best of the comics.

#5 Thom Woolverton
March/3/2009
@ 10:13 pm

I’ve subscribed to my local daily off and on for years. It is owned by a national chain who’s style I have never like. While I agree in principle with the idea of supporting the local paper, I don’t like to read mine. So what should I do? There are some free weeklies and I try to support the companies that buy ad space, but how many handy men can I hire? I know this doesn’t help one way or the other, but that’s my dilemma.

#6 Jeff Stanson
March/3/2009
@ 10:59 pm

I’m an old newspaper guy from way back. Much of what Alan writes about in relating to newspapers I feel describes me as well. Many days as a kid I’d watch for the afternoon paper to come. In college, I took advantage of my local newspaper’s student rate to receive the paper at my school. I’d buy out-of-town papers at the local newsstands. When I’d go on vacations, I’d purchase newspapers not just to read (mostly when I got back home), but to analyze their editorial style and layout. Occasionally, when I found a few I really liked, I’d take advantage of their introductory mail subscription offers and take a three to six month subscription, in order to keep up with them for a while. I worked on the editorial staff of newspapers for 11 years, before finding my way to better paying jobs. But my veins carried ink, and I kept up with what was going on in the newspaper world. Slowly, I began finding less and less I liked about what was going on in the biz and with the papers themselves. First the afternoon paper died in the larger market where I live. The morning paper which had been purchased by one of the larger corporate paper machines started sucking out any life that paper still had. I lost most of my interest in newspapers and stopped subscribing at that point. Today, after a few years of no longer subscribing to newspapers, I now find all of the news I want online by accessing just a few sites. And sorry to dispute you Ted, but I do READ, not just skim. I have also subscribed to one of the online comics services. And the Internet even provides me with my nostalgia fix, as I subscribe to Newspaper Archive. Corporate newspaper ownership killed its own product. Unless things change drastically in the business, I really don’t care if I ever pick up another piece of newsprint.

#7 Stacy Curtis
March/3/2009
@ 11:30 pm

If your local newspaper provides their newspaper content online for FREE, you SHOULD NOT subscribe to the paper edition.

Why read the paper edition?
Your newspaper will send a staffer out in the field with a video camera and you can see that video for free on their website. They mandate some of their staffers should have a blog. They even provide Breaking News content as it happens on their website. They DON’T want you to subscribe to the newspaper. They’re putting all their energy and money into the online edition, but they stand around their newsrooms scratching their heads wondering why no one is buying the newspaper.

Newspaper executives have cut their own throat.
No one should be supporting their cause until the newspaper executives are willing to acknowledge WHY the ship is sinking.

Until they realize that, let them bleed to death.

#8 Jeff Pert
March/4/2009
@ 11:11 am

I, too, was once a daily newspaper reader. Every day, for many years. Not anymore. At my job I have internet access and the time to read the news online. Yes, I read entire articles. Not all of them, but many of them. I never thought I’d give up reading a newspaper for reading online, but it’s happened.

And frankly, I don’t miss the comics. Why? Because there’s hardly anything out there worth reading. This might indicate I’m just becoming an old fart, which is not out of the realm of possibility.

#9 Milt Priggee
March/4/2009
@ 12:16 pm

Newspaper print people (owner/managers) are THE stupidest people in the world.

They have no idea what a newspaper is, or what is a comic strip, or what an editorial cartoon is,or a monopoly or a niche market, etc,etc….

For the last 50 plus years they have been trying to cut their way to success. Unfortunately- they are using the same business model online and are wondering why they are not turning a profit

Newsprint will survive not as it once was but as an entirely different animal.

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