Having had my first serious job as a paperboy with the Free Press at the age of 15, and then writing for the paper as a freelancer, it was a bit surreal to read the news of the online switch and come to grips with the “end of an era.“
But, considering the flight of readers to online sources for their news, it seems like a good plan. The key to its success will most likely be having an exact duplicate of the print version of the paper delivered online.
The electronic facsimile is a good way to go because current newspaper websites offer little or nothing for advertisers who pay the salaries of the reporters and editors who bring us the news.
Newspaper websites make it easy for readers to ditch their subscriptions. They‘re like candy stores giving away free lollipops out the back door and then wondering why there‘s no business up front.
So, perhaps the only way newspapers will survive will be by offering an exact duplicate of their publications online, complete with the ads that pay for the news.
If it succeeds, the brave experiment of the Free Press and the News will be emulated by every newspaper in the country. So good luck, old friends.
But there‘s a larger issue here that begs exploration: the disastrous loss of jobs incurred by “going digital.“
Consider this: If and when the world‘s newspapers go online (not to mention books), it will result in the elimination of millions of jobs.
Jobs in forestry, lumbering, paper mills, printing, trucking, distribution, recycling -- even lowly paperboys -- will be lost forever. If the Free Press/News experiment succeeds, we can expect millions of jobs to disappear from North America within a decade.
True, the end of the printed newspaper will do wonders for the environment, but where will those millions of unemployed lumberjacks, printers and mill operators find work?
Look to Somalia for examples of what angry, idle people do when there‘s no job in sight.
Some predictions for the New Year:
Gosh Darn It: I was tossing out some socks with holes in their heels when it occurred to me that good wool socks run around $15-$25 these days. Resolution: learn to darn socks. Other lost arts set for a comeback in the recession: canning your own tomatos, planting Victory Gardens, rationing, berry picking, whittling toys for the kids next Christmas... “Here son, enjoy this wooden iPod I carved ya.“
Blogging Burnout will be the new pop psychology illness of 2009.
Check out the blogosphere and youll find an increasing number of bloggers who say they cant take it anymore, slaving in a cyber sweatshop at zero pay and few positive strokes.
Sample complaint from a former blogger at wordpress.com: Im closing the site i never have enough time anymore and im a bit UPSET today reason 1: not enough coming to my blog (sic).
Its a bitch. Some say that blogging has been strangled in its crib by Twitter and Facebook, where literally everyone has become a blogger. And no wonder, because there are three million keyboard tappers out there in Blogville... How do you choose?
More Outsourcing: The latest outrage: a publisher in Pasadena has outsourced all of the reporting for his newspaper to India. He fired his staff of seven and replaced them with reporters in India who cover Pasadena via email, the telephone and public access cable. The reporters in India work for pennies, compared to the $600-$800 per week he paid his staff, according to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
Its Raining Vampires. Have you noticed? Seven of the current top-20 paperback novels are about vampires. The film, Twilight is a tween sensation; meanwhile Let the Right One In, a Swedish import film, offers a highbrow art film take on the genre, while the cable series, True Blood offers a soap opera satire on homophobia, racism, sex and AIDS.
Psychologists claim that vampires are a manifestation of the sexual anxieties of teenagers, the audience thats most obsessed with the undead. But perhaps the current overload is a sign of anxiety over how the world is going in general.
Back in the days of Nosferatu, Dracula and the Lost Boys, vampires were an evil bunch. Today they tend to be helpful heroes, eager to assist their human friends.
But if thats true, then the new paradigm means that sucking the life out of someone is admirable behavior in our most popular films and books. Does this mean that Bernard Madoff, the hedge fund vampire whose Ponzi scheme sucked $50 billion out of his trusting customers is a role model? How about political vampire Rod Blagojevich?
Yo, Ho, Ho! Those colorful pirates in Somalia will soon be stealing money out of your wallet at the gas pump.
Reason: Check your GoogleEarth. They‘re just an RPG away from sinking a supertanker in the Gulf of Aden and diverting ships from the easy route through the Suez Canal to the long, expensive haul around Africa.
The Electric Car will save Michigan and the Big 3 (or what‘s left of them).
Reason: millions of us are hanging onto our old cars and coaxing extra miles out of them in the belief that better, more fuel-efficient cars are on the way. By the time the Chevy Volt and its electric cousins arrive in 2010, many of us will be desperate to unload our gas guzzlers, which will be well over the hill.