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...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

All News Fit To Click

Well, I am officially an 100% internet or Kindle newspaper reader as of a few moments ago, albeit my parents still take the Miami Horrible. Until now, I had also a New York Times and Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel subscription, but no longer.

The trend towards reading one's newspapers exclusively on the internet is neither new, nor particuarly noteworthy. I'm sure loads of you do it.

Yet, considering my father gave me my first one-year New York Times subscription for my 17th birthday, it feels odd that I have given up on the tactile feel of inky paper rustling in the morning.

Clicking on a story just cannot compare in terms of sensuality.

But if you consider yourself the slightest bit eco-conscious (and I am more tree-fondler, than tree-hugger), or thrifty in a declining economy, opting out of the hard copy version just makes more sense.

I am concerned I won't be as disciplined in reading my papers as I was with the paper version, though. Let's face it -- if you don't read them daily, they pile up, either mocking you for your laziness or becoming insect magnets, which is gross.

No, you just have to sit down sometime during the day, and read it. Crossword puzzle an absolute-must, obviously. Makes you feel smarter when you finish it (or maybe that's just a British thing).

The one thing I will miss terribly is the intimacy of reading a column by a particular writer, which you then ruminate over even as you turn the page. It allows the reader a strange private communion with said writer -- just me and Thomas Friedman. He wrote. I read. No one else need interrupt.

The internet version is a catastrophe on that score.

Just when you have finished reading what ever, say, Germaine Greer has had to say that day, your eyes then scan below the article, and the usual internet-speak blather of commenters stare back at you.

I am a complete democrat, and a bit of a populist, who makes a fetish of the Common Man and whatever they like or want to say, but I confess that reading commentaries on the BBC News site, or similar, drives me up the wall.

Was it dear Winona Ryder who said in the mid-90s, that the internet makes her sad -- everyone spells so badly?

Well, bad spelling doesn't irritate me. It just breaks the smoothness of reading, akin to driving on a road with intermittent potholes.

It's perhaps a small price to pay for hearing the varied viewpoints out there, but for conservatives, it is yet another daily eye-stab online. Your values are mocked and bullied out of existence, thanks to the 'bury' feature. Pop culture, and culture in general is lost to us -- social networking sites like Youtube, Digg, and even the newish Twitter are nearly lost too.

Newspaper commentary sections add salt on the wound because it seems the garrulous liberals predominate, which wouldn't be bad every once in a while, but it's a depressing state-of-affairs if it's constant.

(Don't worry. We still have the law, the military, religion, business and often local politics as conservative strongholds. Spare a tear for the outmanoeuvered liberals there)

Of course, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal are doing fine, and their tilt is right-wards, so that's a small comfort for some of us stuck in Obamanation.

Speaking of conservatives, the amount of Schadenfreude we have for the demise of the New York Times' fortunes is a little childish.

I would rather they stick around in some format, than to disappear entirely. Nature abhors a vacuum, and journalism is no different. If the NYT folds, a dozen insipid little rags will just pop up, each specialising in their particular niche market.

See, it's not liberal slant, or the triumph of the internet that has caused the NYT and other newspapers to be wilting under their own pomposity. It's that modern tastes are too specific and immediate to have a portmanteau publication addressing them.

You want news? Turn on the TV. Surf the 'net. Go to your favourite news aggregator, like Instapundit or Memeorandum or Drudge. Anything but open your folded-over newspaper lying next to your buttered toast.

Plus, there's the changing demographic arc which grew up with computers, and who bolted out the door, rather than having a chance to observe their parents leisurely reading the morning paper. Similarly, did you know that courts are having a tougher time with younger jurors, because they are so used to getting information on computers, rather than verbally or in print-outs?

None of this is good news for traditional media.

Ironically, my grandparents had twice or more daily editions of their favourite newspapers, but the print versions today are barely holding onto the once-a-day printing. If I were my generation's Lord Rothermere or Lord Beaverbrook, I'd throw received wisdom to the wind, and have a twice-daily printing of a newspaper again. Bring back the newsboys in felt caps barking out the latest headlines, too.

You know, make it EXCITING again.

Barney Frank's latest whopper! Elliot Spitzer in sex-romp! Bernanke's and Paulson's testes tied to planks!

Naturally, the eco-crowd would burn me in effigy for wasting so much paper, so it becomes a circular argument.

No, really, the more I think about it, the more I am glad I just have the Wall Street Journal and the International Business Daily as my two sole newspaper subscriptions on my Kindle now.

Less fuss, no muss, and a whole lot less extraneous commentary than online versions. They even do away with the interminable Moveon.org full page ads. BLISS.

I will miss the crossword section, though, but I can massage my ego on my blog.

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