Letters

Letters 02-02-2015

History Lesson  “The days of cheap oil and easy acquisition are over. “ -- President Obama, June 2010

A Study In Mudslinging In the January 12 issue of Northern Express, Grant Parsons wrote a piece that touched on behind-the-scenes campaign financing. Mr. Parsons referenced attack ads he received in the mail prior to the November elections.

Sad Story I read with sadness in the Detroit Free Press of 24-year-old Angela Marie Alexie, who abandoned her just born baby boy in an unheated Eastpoint, Michigan garage to die alone in the cold, and who had also previously lost 3 children to foster care, the youngest of which, a girl, suffered withdrawal symptoms because of Alexie’s drug use during pregnancy.

Balance On The Page Having looked through the Northern Express for years, I have finally found something worth reading besides News of the Weird and the Advice Goddess!

An Eye On Congress The U.S. Senate on January 21 voted 98 for and 1 against to adopt a non-binding resolution stating, “It is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.”

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Our new direction
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Our new direction

Robert Downes - November 30th, 2009
Our New Direction
There’s growing support in the trade magazines these days for the idea of newspapers taking a step back from the Internet.
Heresy? Not when you consider that 105 American newspapers went out of business in the first seven months of this year and more than 10,000 newsroom jobs were lost. Newspapers are fighting for their lives and it’s starting to slowly dawn on publishers that giving the news away for free online is a strategy for extinction.
Perhaps it’s too soon to tell, but early reports on the viability of web-based newspapers suggests that they’ve been a flop. Basically, they don’t bring in enough revenue to pay for the staff needed to deliver the news.
The Ann Arbor News is one such paper that went online this summer to be replaced by the lackluster AnnArbor.com. So far, the online version of the paper has been labeled as a dud and a disappointment by the likes of Jack Lessenberry, a respected columnist and journalism instructor at Wayne State University who writes for the Detroit Metro Times.
Newspaper websites have been just as bad for the advertisers who support community journalism in the ‘real’ world. The vast majority of newspaper websites present their stories without showing any of the ads that pay the salaries of the paper’s reporters,
editors and staff.
So, the newspaper industry is starting to have second thoughts about its glorious future online. How the change will come, no one knows yet, but here are some of the ideas presented in magazines such as the Columbia Journalism Review and American Journalism Review:
• Some newspapers are considering charging for access to their websites, as is already the case for the online Wall Street Journal. When the New York Times cut 100 newsroom jobs last month, many online readers wrote in to say that they’d rather pay to read the news on the Internet than see cuts in the quality of the paper and its reporting.
Along those lines, one East Coast publisher is actually charging nearly double to read his paper online, compared to the ‘real world’ subscription rate. His paper is thriving, as are other newspapers that have limited their websites.
• There’s also talk of establishing some sort of media voucher system, similar to the iTunes model, whereby you’ll pay a fee to access a variety of publications online.
• Some publishers have considered ‘delinking’ newspapers from Google. Today, many publishers feel that the industry blew it when the Associated Press was allowed to sell their papers’ stories to Google. That sale did Google a world of good, but started the process of killing off newspapers.
• A spin-off of the “newspaper apocalypse” is an idea being floated to have some sort of government bailout or support for the newspaper industry in the form of tax relief or even outright subsidies. I find this to be a radical, dangerous idea -- a slippery slope that could put American journalism on the same path as the state-sponsored and government-controlled press of China or the old Soviet Union. We don’t need any version of Pravda in America, and that’s where reliance on government support would lead us.
The upshot is, no one knows how these schemes to save newspapers will shake out, but chances are you will be paying for your news online sometime in the near future, or your hometown paper will simply disappear. I say this not as a reflection on the viability of
our local press in Northern Michigan (which still seems relatively strong), but on the evidence of the pitiful newspapers I’ve seen in downstate communities over the past
year: Newspapers such as the Oakland Press, Royal Oak Tribune, Birmingham Eccentric and Kalamazoo Gazette are ghosts of what they were before they drank the Internet Kool-Aid and began offering their stories for free online.
If you check out our new “zoom” publication, you’ll see that we’ve taken a different approach to the Internet here at Northern Express. Our emphasis is now on presenting our entire paper online -- every single page as it appears in the real world.
This means that every single advertiser in our newspaper also gets a “free” ad online, including the ability to link directly to their own websites.
This feature extends to website URLs embedded in our online paper’s stories and classifieds. Recently, a friend scrolled over a guitar shop ad in our online want ads and was amazed to see the store’s website pop up -- a nice value for five bucks.
What I also like about our new direction is that the ‘virtual’ Express has a greater element of fun and interactivity than other newspaper websites. There’s a shotgun
rachet sound when you turn the page and the paper unfolds in a series of surprises.
True, it took a long time to load last week’s 92-page paper -- website bandwidth still has a ways to go. And our own staff doesn’t care for the design, which is a work in progress.
But our new direction doesn’t leave our advertisers dead in the ditches like other newspaper websites -- in fact, it offers them a huge added value. And if you care enough about the Express to read it at the lunch counter or in your home, perhaps you’ll enjoy seeing the whole shebang online as well. Check it out at www.northernexpress.com.

 
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