Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are newspaper websites better than their inky cousins?

From Paul Levine...

You're not going to like this, but I want to push the proposition, at least for argument's sake, that newspaper websites are better than their inky cousins. Before you smack me with a rolled up copy of The Daily Fishwrapper, hear this. I am a former newspaper reporter (The Miami Herald) and I am the only person on my block to have five newspapers home delivered. I treasure newspapers and understand their importance to an informed electorate. Could any website have had the resources and the savvy to nail President Nixon during Watergate?

And I agree it's a more pleasing experience to read the paper at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and toast slathered with peach jam. However...

I'm just asking whether www.herald.com, for example, has advantages over its hard copy cousin, The Miami Herald, thanks to:

Updates throughout the day;

Links to related stories, great for writers doing research;

The ability to e-mail stories with the click of a mouse or to post stories to Facebook and other social networking sites;

Extensive use of high resolution color photos; slide shows and video;

And did I forget to mention...it's all FREE!

Yes, I know that last item is one of the reasons newspapers are dying like citrus in a cold snap.

Dude, it's amazing that anyone reads newspapers at all anymore!

We also know the weaknesses of websites. Which among them has the trained investigative staffs that make newspapers an invaluable asset of democracy?

Last year, The New York Times won a Pulitzer for its stories on toxic ingredients in medicine imported from China, leading to crackdowns by both the American and Chinese governments. The Washington Post won the Pulitzer for its series on private security contractors in Iraq operating outside the law. The Chicago Tribune won for exposing faulty governmental regulation of toys, car seats and cribs, resulting in the recalls of hazardous products and new federal laws.

Who would cover these topics with orginal reporting? Salon? Huffington Post? Drudge Report? Naked Authors? Ha.

So, what can we hope for if paper-and-ink newspapers shrivel and die? Perhaps website publications with the full newsroom staffs that are the equivalent of the best newspapers of 20 years ago. There'll be no more expensive printing and delivery. If websites can find the model to CHARGE for their services -- as The Wall Street Journal and a few others do now -- perhaps the future is not as bleak as it may appear.

Your thoughts?

Oh, those papers I still have home delivered: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Variety, and (by mail), Penn State's Daily Collegian.

I'll be stopping by The Kill Zone this Sunday. Don't know what I'll be writing, but I'm sure it will not win a Pulitzer Prize.

FLOGGING THE BOOK: If you're still one of the millions of Americans who have not purchased, borrowed, or stolen "Illegal," there are many ways to do on my website. You can also sign up for my newsletter and win many exciting prizes, including a free day of sailing on Jim Born's lake.

Paul Levine


  1. Paul, I read both online and paper news. The availability of online newspaper sites means that I can read the UK's Independent and Times, and I can also read the NY Times daily, though I take the paper version on Sundays. My husband has the LA Times delivered daily. I am sure it will be down to one page soon.

    Here's why I don't see regular news updates as a big plus for me: We've all been hoodwinked into thinking we need more information as the day goes on. But we don't. We've become a society dependent upon the next fizzle of excitement, whether it comes in call via cellphone, an email or a news update zinging its way forth from the laptop, iphone or Blackberry. We just don't need it and it's a big waste of time - almost-constant reading of emails and keeping up with the news is not productive, really (unless you're a broker, I suppose).

    A few weeks ago my brother told me that he had just been in Safeway and noticed how many people were in the store using their 'phones and other electronic bits and pieces. There was a guy close to the freezer section saying, "I'm just walking past the peas and beans, so what are you doing?" As my brother said, it was "non-conversation."

    So, I read the news once a day and trust that by the time I read it again the next morning, there wouldn't have been anything I could change anyway. Do I feel left out of the conversation? No, never.

    But you're right, there is nothing like reading a newspaper in the morning, accompanied by a couple of slabs of toast and jam and a cup of joe - which is why I only have the NYT once a week. When Sunday rolls around and I curl up on the sofa with that paper, it feels like such an indulgence, such a restful thing to do, even if I am reading news that I picked up on the website the day before.

  2. I witness the same thing every day at Trader Joe's. The man or woman blaring into the cell: "Whadaya want for dinner, babe?"

    How about peace and quiet?

    I agree, Jackie, about 24 hour news updates. Info overload.

  3. As a first time visitor to Naked Truth, let me start by telling you how impressed I am with the collective talent here. Just one question, though. Which one of you is the "guy with good hair"? Being follically-challenged, you all look ace to me.

  4. James O. Born4/14/2009 1:05 PM

    Good points. I do read the hard copy of the Palm Beach Post and the ecopy of the Sun sentinel everyday. I have so many friends at the Post taht I would feel guilty not subscribing.

    I find I stop by newspaper and TV sites more often. I keep local WPTV as a favorite because it has weather radar as well as traffic.

    I'm happy to take anyone wh buys your book sailing.


  5. I'm a tutor at my school and I have to specifically tell the new students not to text me if they're contacting me for an appointment. I don't have texting as part of my cell phone plan and I don't want it. If someone wants to talk to me, they can call me and focus on me, not the five other things they might be doing at that time.

    The sad thing is, if I don't tell them to call instead of text, it never crosses their mind that I might not have texting on my phone. So I end up with all these extra little charges on my bill.

    The only upside is knowing that at some point they're probably going to have to bring cookies to class because their cell phone went off in class.

  6. No, for one reason--variety. I already spend way too much time staring at a computer monitor. Plus, I hate change. I want to read that inky cousin in bed with a cuppa Joe.

    And welcome Raul!

  7. I want to thank Raul Ramos y Sanchez for his first visit here. For those who don't know, he is the author of the forthcoming novel, "America Libre" and he also maintains a website you should visit: http://myimmigrationstory.com

    I'll have more to say about the site on a later Tuesday

  8. jackie and patty, do tell, what is a cuppa "Joe"?

  9. thanks, patty.