Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Blank pages = blank minds, but will that sway anybody to subscribe?

The Chicago Sun-Times on Monday tried to make a huge, sweeping statement – one of those “moments of awe” meant to inspire a deep thought within us.

Were you swayed?
They published a newspaper with a blank front page. It’s supposed to be symbolic of the quality of information we’d get if there were no newspapers being published at all.

AS IN THERE would be no stories whatsoever if we didn’t have newspapers with their staffs to actually report them. So, we’re supposed to conclude, we need to do whatever is necessary to ensure the continued survival of newspapers.

Of course, this grand statement is part of a larger gimmick. The Sun-Times’ website (at www.chicago.suntimes.com) wants to alter itself so that people can no longer just go there and expect to get the full content of the newspaper unless they have some sort of subscription.

They’d probably like it if people would take the full package that gives them a copy of the daily paper, along with full access to the website. Although they’ll also be happy if people take the digital access, by which people pay a lesser fee for the right to read anything on the website that they wish.

According to the Sun-Times’ own promotional copy, it is such a low subscription rate to do that. It amounts to “less than 25 cents a day.”

WHICH IS MY mind is a magic number of sorts – I’m old enough to remember back to when daily newspapers in Chicago cost a quarter each. That 25 cents would get you the whole paper back then, along with all the advertising supplements that were stuffed in it that supposedly had such value in-and-of-themselves that you’d save money far beyond the quarter you shelled out.
Did you "read all about it" on Waffle House?

Perhaps you can make an older generation feel like the price is returning to the golden days of old, rather than the current cost of $1 per day that a Sun-Times costs (or $2 on Sunday, but with the physical product scaled back to the point where it doesn’t have the “feel” of a traditional Sunday edition).

But a part of me is skeptical the message will take.

I have often wondered if it is going to take the outright demise of several newspapers and the loss of their content before people realize just how serious the loss will be.

I KNOW TOO many people who are foolish enough to think that television broadcasts or the Internet have somehow replaced newspapers in terms of providing information. They really haven’t.

Because if you take a serious look at the content those entities are providing, all too often they remain nothing more than retransmissions of what was first in the local paper.

The local TV news is just following up on the stories that were already in the paper, and the assorted websites are merely publishing the newspaper stories – or more accurately rewriting them in ways to try to make them appear to be their own content.
The original source

I got a subtle reminder of that fact in a story I wrote last week for the Post-Tribune newspaper of Northwest Indiana. Improvements that the Gary South Shore RailCats baseball team will have made to their stadium. Or, to be more honest, improvements that Gary municipal government will make for the ball club.

A WEBSITE, BALLPARK Digest, which covers the professional sports industry, did its own story. Which, if you read it realistically, was just a cheap rewrite of what I had did. At least they were honest enough to attribute the work to the Post-Tribune.

This kind of rewrite is all-too-common. Which is why I find it laughable when people say they don’t read the Sun-Times or Tribune anymore. But then you learn they’re getting those papers’ stories off assorted websites.

I don’t know what the future of the news-gathering business is, to tell you the truth. Only that I fear many of us are going to be a lot-less-well-informed because of the changes.

And by then, it will be far too late to do anything about it.


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