Read Them While You Can – The Disappearing Newspaper

May 24, 2018

Written by Art Petrosemolo

I was in Rhode Island last week photographing the Volvo Ocean Race boats in Newport. I have had a nautical photography business for several years and it is a labor of love. One of my photos from the race appears at the bottom of the blog.

Anyway, this week was a busman’s holiday with a photographer friend and we had a terrific time photographing these sailing machines as they got ready to start the last two legs of the around the world race that will end in Europe in June.

I stayed on Narraganset Bay’s western shore in Wickford at a little motel and got up early to get coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts (I sure hope they start building more of them here) and buy the newspapers. I picked up the Providence Journal, Boston Globe and the New York Times. The lady said “that will be $7.50.” My answer was “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and maybe the word was a little stronger than kidding. “No,” she repeated, “$7.50.” I gave her back the Globe and the Times (on principal) and took the Providence Journal at $2.00 and grumbled all the way back to my car.

As I drove back to the motel, I cooled down and suddenly realized that I am actually seeing the end of an age. There is no question I may not see it but anyone who hasn’t reached 40 yet, sure will. Very soon, in my opinion, there will be five or six national type newspapers in cities like New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas and maybe Miami and other than really local weekly papers, everything else read will be online.

I suddenly felt pretty bad. First I was helping the situation when I didn’t spend the $$$ for the other two newspapers. Second, I have written—full and part time—for newspapers since I started to work in the mid-1960s as a reporter for the Greenwich (CTS) Time and the New Haven (CT) Register.  I have lots of friends in the business and writing for the local weeklies, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Lancaster Farming since I moved to Garden Spot has kept me busy and happy.

With advertising—which really pays for the paper—moving to online platforms, newspapers have been forced to retrench and many have cut way back or closed. When I started in the business I worked for an afternoon daily in a city that had a morning daily too. Today, there are 20 percent less journalists working in the field than 10 years ago and the numbers drop each year. Wikipedia’s list of defunct newspapers is long and gets longer every year. They only list the notables and don’t include many of the local weekly papers.

I have a number of journalist friends who made the move to online news services several years ago and a lot more who wished they did as they face a dismal future with little hope of advancement.

And, sadly, during this contentious time in our country, we actually need more journalists and trustworthy newspapers to sort out the facts from the trash and untruths we are bombarded with as online sources grow.

As I drove back to the motel, I wondered why we were so good, in this country, at innovation and growth in so many areas, but have not find a way to save the print media. Sadly, I could not think of one although my colleague, a retired Coast Guard Captain and engineer, said, while we were on the water that he had read Donald Trump’s presidency had single handedly slowed the decline of newspaper readership as there were new, big headline stories every day…. unfortunately, it was my friend’s attempt at humor.

So, sorry to be the bringer of bad news but it probably something you know about already. Yes, I subscribe to the local Lancaster newspaper (on Sunday), the Wall Street Journal that I still am sent as I used it journalism classes I taught and certainly, I read all the local weeklies I write for. But I get the rest of my news (and yes I am a news junkie) reading the New York Times online (I subscribe at a $1 a week), and the online USA Today. I listen to the New York Times podcast—The Daily—every morning and watch the PBS Newshour every night….

But I miss my ink-stained fingers after paging through three and four newspapers as I did when I was working. Oh well, times have changed.

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