Thursday, June 20, 2013

We see the future, and it’s rather cheap

A part of me was appalled enough by the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday to make some sort of grandiose gesture such as calling up the newspaper and cancelling my subscription!

Of course, I didn’t. For a couple of reasons.

FOR ONE THING, I don’t subscribe. I have always been one of those individuals who prefers to buy newspapers at the newsstand or at a convenience store or some other physical place.

But the bigger reason? I suspect that those Wrapports-type people who own the Sun-Times and all the suburban newspapers would probably be incredibly pleased (tickled pink, which phrase do you prefer?) if a lot of people were to quit buying the paper.

Which officially is no longer the Chicago Sun-Times.

It’s now Even in print! Yes, I think it’s kind of cute that they use one of the Chicago-style stars (as in the city flag) for the dot in .com. But otherwise, the newspaper has made a significant shift that just doesn’t do much for me.

FOR IT SEEMS that management now wants us to think of the Sun-Times as being a Chicago-oriented web site that happens to put out a daily publication based on its content.

As if the newspaper itself were now just an advertising flier for Flip through its pages, and you can get samples of the types of stories you can find once you put down that dreaded newsprint and boot up your computer, laptop, smartphone or whatever other gadget you happen to use to access information.

I noticed several instances where the stories on the website are longer and more detailed than what appears in print. That doesn’t mean the website is more comprehensive by any means.

Just read the story by top-notch political reporter Natasha Korecki about the polling numbers on potential gubernatorial dreamer Lisa Madigan. All of the interesting detail is only on the website. None of it made the printed paper.

IT JUST MEANS that the hard work of reporter-type people was held back from anyone who actually plunked down $1 for the physical product. To get the whole story, one now has to turn to the medium that likely will never be able to charge the kinds of advertising rates necessary to support a worthwhile news report.

Making the shift makes no sense, unless you really are determined to get people into reading the website and want to view a newspaper as a pain in the butt – despite the fact that ink on paper is so much easier on the eyes for those people who actually try to read extended bits of copy.

Which strikes me as wanting to chase away one’s most loyal customers to try to attract more people who likely aren’t going to want them, no matter what gestures are made.

One other point about the NEW – something about that shade of red for the nameplate, combined with the white lettering. It looks like a cheaply-printed comic book. Hoy and RedEye (both Tribune-published tabloids) have a more sophisticated look than the read tabloid-format newspaper in town.

THAT IS PARTICULARLY ironic, because most “graphic novels” (who’s kidding whom, they’re comics) go to great lengths to achieve high-quality printing standards. The cheap look drags down the overall image.

Although I have to admit to finding some humor in that front-page story (“Feud or Fraud?”) about Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and state House Speaker Michael Madigan, both D-Chicago.

If this really is a comic book, they both came across as sinister-looking arch-villains engaged in a wicked plot to undermine that never-impressive super-hero, the Mighty Pat Quinn, on yet another issue.

All in all, it has me thinking I need to pick up the New York Times national edition on a more-regular basis. Either that, or start trying to figure out what kind of costume a Quinn super-hero character would wear?


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