Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Time Can't Save My Newspaper

I sent the letter below to the editors of Time Magazine, in response to their February 16th cover story. I remember riding the train downtown when I was young, watching all the well-dressed business people reading the Trib, with its complicated folds and small print. Oooh how I wanted to be one of those people some day. I'd observe the care with which gentlemen would tuck the paper under their arms as they got off the train, careful not to bend or crumple, saving it for lunch-time reading and, later, the ride home. The newspaper was a valuable and important part of the day. It was intelligent and necessary to your own sense of intelligence. It was reserved for thinking people, smart people - even the least educated person could feel educated by reading the paper - and we were all elevated to its standard by its standard. I miss those days. I hope you'll join me in working to save, and reclaim, our newspapers. We need them.

I read with great interest Walter Isaacson's essay, "How to Save Your Newspaper". I was disappointed to find that he didn't give me anything to do. Click and pay? He only wants to solve the problem of distributing content online for free? He doesn't care, then, that loyal newspaper readers are increasingly put off by tabloid stories, celebrity-obsessed front pages, garish graphics, and poor - really poor- writing. Nor does he care that the paper-reading population is dwindling because our society is perversely turning people from thinking readers into mindless web-clickers. And our papers are rolling over and playing dead in the face of this attack. I'm looking for my paper to be intelligent, thoughtful, careful, and relevant. I waited to be grown-up enough to legitimately hold a newspaper in my hands and read it on the train to work. Unfortunately, shortly after I got mature enough to do so, the paper became so consumed with gossip geared to over-caffeinated electronics junkies, I felt a bit juvenile reading it. I'm sure there are brilliant enough minds out there in the publishing world to modernize newspapers without dumbing-down the content. And I don't need to be hyper-texted into oblivion, either. I need real news, prepared by real journalists, and I'm willing to pay for it. How do I get that back?

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