Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I love newspapers. I love news. My love affair goes way back. Growing up in Yuma, "The Yuma Daily Sun" was all I had. We didn't have cable, so we were stuck with three lousy public television stations, and there was no internet back then. So, at 5pm (or so), I anxiously waited for that pathetic little newspaper, and when it came I consumed it, starting, of course, with sports, then to the opinions.

When I went to college, I took one semester off (and summer) and worked in Ft. Huachuca which amounted to an hour and a half bus ride every day. I remember taking real comfort in reading the Tucson newspaper, absorbing every Arizona Wildcat basketball story.

Now in Phoenix, I have been a consistent subscriber of the Arizona Republic, reading (or at least skimming) over almost every article in the paper. Odd that now the internet is so ubiquitous I still look forward to going outside every morning to pick up my beloved Arizona Republic. But I'm just angry about how the quality of the paper has degraded since this recession. Some of my favorite writers (most notably Jon Talton have left the paper. The opinion page often has too many syndicated columnists (in the old days that was great, it was my only access to them - but now I've already read most of the articles on the internet) and not enough local writers.

And it has shrunk accordingly. The Valley & State section (still my favorite) now has the business section crammed into it.

I understand why. The newspapers have long been used to being able to leverage income from classifieds and advertising to supplement subscriptions. The internet, of course, stripped away classifieds from their business model. The newspapers are losing readers to the internet. And nobody wants to pay to read stories on the internet, especially when so much of it is already free.

In the old days, newspapers dominated their town. They were basically the sole providers of national news, now there are much better writers and news sources for national news available for free on again, the internet. I simply do not want to read about national politics in the local newspaper - I have better sources for it now.

But I want the newspapers to live. I would be sad without the tactile experience of a real, true blue newspaper plopping on my drive way every morning, reading it over my breakfast cereal. Not to mention the access I enjoy to local news, local sports coverage. Nobody covers the Phoenix Suns like our local reporters. Nobody at all covers my beloved Arizona Wildcats like the Tucson papers - whose website I hit religiously for the latest on recruits and their new coach.

But local newspapers are dying. And its one of the distressing things about this recession. Quality goods, stuff I want in my life are disappearing. Its a self-inflicting slow death. We are scared we will lose our jobs, so we stop spending, even on stuff we want. That stuff then starts disappearing.

More poignantly, teachers are being laid off, our universities are contracting.. Really, we want to reduce access to education?

The East Valley Tribune recently laid off reporters who recently won the pulitzer prize for their coverage on Sherif Joe.

Perhaps we don't need the actual, physical paper, but we need the reporters and the reporting. I'm confident that a new business model for local news is out there ready to be exploited for the common good of everyone. But that business model is not yet here, and is not obvious at all what it will become. And the internet lends its strength by providing commentary taking from all of that now disappearing reporting. And too many people are not noticing the loss of coverage.

Right now, I'm sad that our newspapers are dying.

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