Since the late 80’s I have made it a habit to read a newspaper or two each day. For the past ten plus years I read the Calgary Herald online. I loved the convenience of accessing several days’ worth in one sitting without having that dreadful pile of newsprint to recycle each week.
I recently gave it up.
I thought I would miss it but I haven’t.
I once enjoyed the online comments of my fellow readers. In fact, the editorial page was among my favourite sections. One regular commenter named Bob was often the target of a number of other readers who never agreed with him.
They got personal, calling him names and ganging up on him with great glee (and in poor taste). Overall, I thought Bob was usually the one who had the facts and his opinions seemed to make sense.
Another section I never missed was the obituaries. I looked for people I might know; in the last few years, I’ve recognized more in those pages than I cared to admit. Sometimes I would read the obits of complete strangers. I like the way some people were remembered. I was impressed by one that was written by the deceased. In fact, if I see it coming, I’m writing my own obituary.
A friend of mine shared that one of her peeves is not knowing what got them in the end. I agree. Our obits will include cause of death. I also want people to know about the things I really cared about, not what jobs I had.
Ultimately, I found I was spending an hour a day reading the newspaper. In the end I’m not sure it was worth it. One day my payment was declined and my newspaper stopped arriving. I decided to try going without it for a while.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
I have access to so much news, most of it more timely and relevant. Print rarely gets a breaking-news story these days. By the time I opened my newspaper, as early as 5AM, most of the “news” was old. Hours earlier I had found it online through a handful of RSS feeds to which I belong.
Other non-news content was often not reliable. Advertisers and sponsors heavily control mainstream media, rendering much of their “reporting” to propaganda in favour of some big industry or evil corporation.
An example is the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan in March 2011. So-called alternative news sites reported almost daily on the dangerous levels of radioactive materials it spewed and continues to spew, but the Calgary Herald ran only a handful of watered down stories in over six months.
Since working in an MP’s office a couple decades ago, I know not to believe anything I see on TV, hear on the radio, or read in the newspaper. I believe I need to get my news from a variety of sources and carefully measure the motives and connections of each source.
There is no such animal as “unbiased journalism”, and as long as people believe all the swill they are spoon fed, they are doomed to making dumb decisions.
Part of the problem is that a handful of companies control all the media in our country and our continent. There is little competition and it’s easier for them to get soft and corrupt.
As a marketing manager ten years ago, I surveyed my customers and I saw newspaper readership declining. For years the newspapers told us otherwise but giving away newspapers at Home Depot doesn’t count. Handy to put under a can of paint, but I never believed for a moment that many of them were actually read.
I now join the X and Y generations, who never read a newspaper. I feel somewhat free, but a little nervous that I might miss something.
I am fully aware that my decision is one more small nail in the newspaper industry’s coffin. Too bad they’ve been slow to adapt to the changing world. Newspapers will go the way of the Town Crier, unless they realize they’re not in the newspaper business; they’re in the news business.
July 2013 Update: The Calgary Herald cancelled their Sunday edition several months ago. Sunday was once their second or third highest readership day. RIP. Over a year later, I continue to find news without reading newspapers.