28 June 2011

Perhaps the nearest sign that I'm growing crotchety and old.

I like newspapers.

I like holding one and reading the columns. I think there's an entire ritual that's passing away centered around sofas, coffee tables, and bulky Sunday papers with all those sections and circulars and supplements.

I don't know the economics of it, but I wonder if -- counter to all our amazement at the joys of the internet and the economic engine we believe it to be -- the internet hasn't killed not only the newspapers but also the entire economic system around it, from advertising artists and salespeople to printers and shippers and paper suppliers. Like I said, I don't know if there's a net gain or loss economically, and since I'm not Michael Gerson, I'm not going to write some utterly uninformed piece about it.

Besides, I like the internet, too.

Now it used to be that if I wanted a copy of the Post, I plunked down my coins and picked up the daily (OK, I actually subscribed when I lived in DC, and would be subscribing still if I weren't in PA). You paid for it. And advertisers paid for it. Then the internet came along and we all thought news was free. Newspapers were caught in a bind: they had to get onto the internet or become irrelevant, but the moment they got on the internet they undercut their print editions. People won't pay for internet content...or so the theory goes.

Even papers you never had to pay for are struggling in the internet age.

One of my particular joys in living in DC, especially when I was in my twenties, was reading the CityPaper's matches section. I especially liked the "none of the above" category, because it had the potential to supply in three or four very short lines astounding humor. Pair those ads with the ludicrous porn shop ads and there was great clipping material to send to friends in faraway places.

Then Craigslist came along.

I like Craigslist, too, but it's too easy. The trolls aren't terribly inventive, and the potential for surprising humor just isn't there, except in the area where musicians try to form bands...that can still be comedy gold.

Ben Franklin got his start printing papers. When papers close, old Ben sheds a tear.

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