I’m more than a bit of a geek. I got my first computer in 1981 — a couple months before the first IBM PC was released. Since then I’ve gone through seven desktop machines and a half dozen laptops.
I offer this as evidence I’m no Luddite bemoaning the replacement of ink-on-paper newspapers by dancing pixels on a screen.
No, I’m not about to trade my computer for a typewriter. I need it too much. Where else could I confirm in less than a minute that the IBM PC debuted on Aug. 12, 1981.
I’ve used a PC to mine census data for stories since the mid-’80s. The arrival of the World Wide Web in the next decade provides access to the world’s biggest library and the tools to search it.
I first used the World Wide Web to research a story in 1995. Today it’s the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing at night. I can’t imagine working without it.
But while the Web is an invaluable tool to reporting the news, I don’t believe it’s the best way to deliver the type of information that is rapidly becoming the hardest to find — local news.
Preaching this gospel is heresy for many in the newspaper business. In an age of smartphones and tablets, the idea of printing news stories and photos on paper and transporting it to homes seems a costly waste.
That’s certainly the view at The Plain Dealer, which this week cut its home delivery to three days plus a “bonus day” on Saturday. (I assume the reason the Plain Dealer advertises it that way is so the bonus day can be easily dropped.)
On the days without delivery, papers still will be available in stores and newsstands. But the path clearly points to a digital future: Just post the news on the Web — that’s where the action is.
But that’s the problem with the Web — too much action. It’s like a virtual carnival with more than 600 million attractions waiting to be viewed.
I can’t cite statistics, but I strongly suspect that after checking out their Facebook pages, the latest viral videos on YouTube, whatever is twittering on Twitter and wherever else interesting, intriguing or shocking they roam, most readers run out of time before they get around to checking out their newspaper’s website.
It’s not that local news isn’t important. People need to know how their government officials are spending their taxes and how their schools are teaching their children. They also want to know how their high school’s football team did Friday night and what’s going on at the public square this weekend.
They just don’t have the time to find it on the Internet. That’s why I think they still want their news delivered to their home.
If you agree, the next time a neighbor or friend says they miss seeing a newspaper on their driveway every morning, tell them they still can.
The advertising slogan you’ve been seeing at the bottom of The Gazette’s front page — “We Deliver . . . News that Matters” — isn’t just a marketing ploy.
It’s a commitment.
Contact Managing Editor David Knox at 330-721-4065 or email@example.com.
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