Comment: Technology has always been the enemy of paper | Columnists

TWENTY YEARS AGO one of my editors lamented, “I just hope the print paper lasts until I retire.”

The print newspaper still exists, but its days are numbered as more and more people get their news online. The time is quickly coming when you will have to put your computer or cell phone on the bottom of the birdcage to catch the droppings.

A recent story said that sometime next year, the Atlanta Journal–Constitution will begin printing only on weekends, and while company officials responded that no specific date has been set for the downgrade, they made it clear that digital news is the direction. in which the AJC is titled.

And, unfortunately, most newspapers focus on this. It’s a matter of time.

Technology has always been the enemy of the print newspaper. Until the 1920s, the daily or weekly newspaper was the only means of bringing the latest events into the American household. But sometimes that news was from a day, a week or even a month ago.

People also read…

Then came radio, and by the early 1920s you could hear live news broadcasts of many events. In the 1940s and 1950s, television added video to the news, and suddenly you could not only hear what was happening, you could also see it.

And in many cases it was instantaneous. You didn’t have to wait for the morning paper to be delivered to get the story.

But newspapers always boasted that they could give you the in-depth story, even if it was a few hours or a day after the fact. And you can read the story at your leisure, rather than getting the facts only at certain hours of TV news.

Then 24-hour news channels came along, and not only did they bring Americans instant news, but they also had plenty of time to analyze the facts, often ad nauseam.

Then came the Internet, and suddenly Americans could get sound, pictures and in-depth analysis at the push of a button. And Internet stories can be sent around the world in an instant.

We now have a smartphone with world, state and local news in our pockets 24 hours a day.

Technology has changed our culture.

In the beginning, newspapers had little competition for advertisements. There are now thousands of media outlets competing for the advertising dollar.

Readers complain that today’s newspapers are getting smaller, but what many don’t understand is that newspapers are built around advertisements. The more ads, the more pages. When the ads are down, the pages are down. When advertising goes down, subscription prices should go up. The newspaper needs to make money to pay its employees.

Yes, but newspapers make money with their online editions, you might reply. Unfortunately, advertisers pay much less for online ads than for print ads.

And newsprint rolls are getting more and more expensive.

People used to buy local papers to find special weekly ads. Now they can go straight to the store’s website and find those deals. Print newspapers are left holding the proverbial empty grocery bag.

But newspapers also helped bring about their own demise. As ad revenue declined, newspapers began charging for wedding and engagement announcements and obituaries, features that sell newspapers. So readers stopped posting engagement and wedding announcements and left obituaries to funeral homes, even though they also charge for the service.

Yes, print newspapers are on the way out and it’s a shame. Like many of my generation, I have a scrapbook of baseball exploits and other special moments from the past. Scraps can become relics of the past.

Yes, today’s generation can print stories from a digital copy and put them in a scrapbook. But it’s not the same. There was something official about an original newspaper clipping. A copy is just a copy.

And it’s hard to solve a crossword puzzle on a computer.

Man, how I hate to see print newspapers go, but make no mistake, they are. Like everything else in our society, newspapers are becoming impersonal.

Soon you won’t be able to “run to the store and get a paper” and the newsboys, if there are any left, will be gone.

There are no humans involved; just turn on the computer.

How long will it be before computers, not reporters, write the stories? Many young people now get their “news” from social media sources. If Donald Trump thinks he has fake news now, just wait.

How about my editor friend? He was able to get out of the newspaper business while he had printing paper. His work was cut to help the paper.

Print newspapers are caught in a vicious circle. Ads are getting smaller, so papers are getting smaller. Newspapers are shrinking and more subscribers are being lost. Fewer subscribers means advertisers want space for less. Advertisers are pulled out and documents get smaller and the cycle starts again.

It’s not easy being a newspaperman these days.

Donnie Johnston:

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