[14 April 2009]
PopMatters Music Reviews Editor
Here is why newspapers have a “chance”: Nostalgia.
Remember hearing about your parents spending all their money on vinyl when they were kids? Or how about how they proudly wore those skinny black ties on a daily basis? Or – yes, even at this point – dare I say, the flannel shirts?
Now think about how cool you look if you invite someone over to show off your imported collection of Elvis Costello records. Or how much you’d fit in at the nearest, hippest club wearing a nice, black, skinnier-than-usual tie over a plain, white, button-up t-shirt. And you’d be lying if you didn’t notice the tight, snap-buttoned plaid shirts being showcased on sale at the closest shopping mall.
Everything in pop culture comes full circle. How else do you think Brett Michaels could handle his own reality television show? So considering the notion that newspapers have been a major part – if not a central part – of pop culture far longer than “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” ever spent in the top 10, you have to think that, at some point, people are going to deem it “cool” to be one of the few remaining newspaper people, right?
Or, well, we can hope so.
But here is why newspapers’ “chance” is limited: Despondency.
Everyone, everywhere, is so willing to give up on print media so quickly, it’s certainly going to make any crusade against saving the newspaper industry an uphill battle. Case in point: Reuters reported Monday that the Marriott hotel chain will stop offering free copies of The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and/or their local city paper at their hotels as a courtesy to their guests.
Sure, this doesn’t really affect anyone aside from USA Today all that much (according to the article, this move reduces newspaper distribution by 50,000 copies daily - 18 million annually - and the WSJ openly admitted that this move would only truly have an impact on a very small amount of papers for their publication, if nothing else), but this is the latest in a string of moves that is seemingly kicking the newspaper industry in its ass as it slowly makes its way to the door.
It’s unwarranted. The assumption is that newspapers are dead. Sure, there are a ton of numbers that back that particular notion up, but, realistically speaking, newspapers are indeed not dead. There are thousands of publications still managing to stay afloat across this country and though times have become admittedly hard, the ratio of “living” newspapers to “dead” newspapers is staggeringly in favor of “living.”
You see, the more we read these kinds of stories – and the more people within the masses begin to dig out a plot for print media before the funeral is even arranged – the more pop culture as a whole starts accepting a world without newspapers. How much does it really benefit a hotel if they begin to make the delivery of a newspaper a simple “option” on their list of perks, right next to “high speed internet” and a few porn channels? Whine all you want about making this planet “more green” by saving trees and limiting the use of paper, but be honest, do you think anyone even considered saving a little oxygen when they needed to know what was going on, thousands of years ago when print media first took its form?
And I know, I know. You don’t receive your news from that particular medium anymore. You don’t turn to your local newspaper to see what happened the day before. You retrieve your information via Web sites, e-mails and the television. You love new media. You love knowing what happened first. You love instant news instantly.
But solely relying on those options for newsgathering is merely thoughtless. It’s shallow. It’s absolutely and utterly one-dimensional. A Web site refreshes in a half-hour. It has a search engine that can take hours to finally discover what exactly it was you were initially looking for. It’s written in present tense because writers are sitting on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting the next detail to provide an “update” on whatever story it may be.
A Web site isn’t a piece of paper in your hand that you can store away forever. It isn’t a mere blurb about the latest piece of news, offered up in a way that mirrors the fickle nature of how much a story can change on a dime and how much the actual news can always be flushed out a little better should someone put five more minutes of thought into their work.
The Marriott is doing so much more than simply not providing a customer with a newspaper whenever they decide to wake up. The Marriott is hopping on a ship that continues to sail without any regard for the repercussions the assumptions they promote could have on an entire industry. And that’s upsetting.
Because we all know what assuming can do.