I listened to a semi-interesting local radio interview this morning — Is the newspaper a dying medium? — on CKNW, featuring guest Jonathan Kay of the National Post. (The half-hour piece was based on Kay’s column, You’ll miss us when we’re gone.)
Kay’s piece is a good one, and well worth reading right to his conclusion:
Will I be here in a year, or five, or 10, still lecturing you on the importance of my industry? Or will I be taking your burger order through a staticy speaker? I don’t know. But I can promise you one thing: If print scribes do go the way of buggy-whip makers, the marketplace of ideas is going to be more superficial and unedifying than it already is.
This isn’t a curmudgeon at work, it is someone who genuinely fears of the loss of revenue that funds in-depth, interesting and important journalism, revenue which hasn’t be replaced despite a number of worthwhile attempts.
As I said, the interview was only mildly interesting (you can’t do much depth with a half-hour punctuated by traffic reports and ads). Kay did say — and this is partially paraphrased — that he thinks there are too many newspapers in Canada and “we’re obviously going to see a big shakeout,” with the resulting loss of journalism jobs. Newspapers, he added, are going to have to find micromarkets, based on politics or geography.
More interesting were the three callers who got through during the show and their reasons for reading newspapers. (Note: I know three callers to an 8:30 a.m. call-in show don’t mean much.)
The first caller reads the National Post to keep his eye on the neo-cons. The second, who identified herself as a senior citizen, called her morning newspaper reading “the ultimate in luxury,” and pointed to the “safety feature” of newspaper subscriptions for older folk: if their newspaper isn’t picked up for two or three days, someone is going to knock on the door and see to their health. And, from the third caller: “I still read the newspaper to find out what corporate media has decided to tell us.” He lambasted newspapers for their focus on crime and violence and for a poor style of writing.
None of the three mentioned a need to know, the importance of staying on top of the news, the desire for in-depth coverage or knowledgeable commentary. Again, the voices of three people don’t signify anything, perhaps, other than proximity to a phone and time to listen.
The most telling, I think, was calling the daily newspaper a “luxury,” which drew from the host the comment that given how busy we all are/have to be, reading a newspaper that, to a large degree, is reporting what we already know, is indeed a luxury. That’s not a new sentiment, but I can’t help but think that all these busy people still make time for reality TV, sports events and concerts and other diversions. The newspaper, it seems, has come to be defined not so much as “luxury” items, as it is something that isn’t rated as important, in the time available.
Currently playing in iTunes: Odessa Bulgar by Burning Bush