Somebody Help Me Here

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Wednesday April 26, 2006.

You had to expect this. Now that I’m going to grad school, you have to expect to see many posts pontificating on the state of journalism today and crap like that. Plus, in true blog form, I’m about to comment on someone’s comment on someone’s comment on an article written by someone else. Kevin Bacon allusions aside, I have a point here.

For those too lazy to link up, the point of all those links is that a newspaper has decided to stop giving away somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000-5,000 papers daily to employees and have them read it online. Or, they can buy it for half-price from machines throughout the office. The writers of the articles linked above seem to be making some sort of comment on the state of newspapers and whether it devalues the paper itself if it can easily be read online as opposed to in physical form for a fee. I think.

I’ve read Brian Burghart’s piece in the local alt-weekly (free as it is) several times now and don’t quite get it. Is he saying that when the paper is available online for free and people choose to read it that way then it makes the physical form worthless and subscribing to it a waste of time? Or is he saying that the employees of that paper who have taken it upon themselves to continue to keep it free (some are putting in their quarter and taking all the papers out for everyone to use) need to buck up and absorb some cost to show that the paper is important to them? Or is there something else I’m missing? Is it ironic that I, an avid reader of online papers (subscribe to none, read several) was reading this (along with an article about how much printing companies, like the ones who print junk newspaperish mailers, pollute locally – newsprint on fingers, anyone – while sitting in the car during baseball practice the other day) in physical form?

Initially, Burghart’s piece struck me as competely moronic. I thought he was saying that free stuff, like online versions of newspapers, were worthless. Hello, this was the free weekly thing I was reading. But he’s not that dumb. So what am I missing? Surely he can’t think that a bunch of disgruntled fishhacks who, as can be deduced from the above pieces, refuse to capitulate to a more modern method to deliver what’s important – their CONTENT – deserve a bone here and should get their papers back, could he? Could he? Well, I think he does believe that.

Now, like I said, I’m lost, and I’m only making the best guess I could based on the information in front of me. But if he is saying that, what do his comments mean for the future of journalism? Is he telling us that it is vital for the physical newspaper to continue to exist? I guess an argument can be made, but why? Haven’t there been countless pieces of literature that explain, in some overly dramatic fashion, that it’s the thoughts that make the difference. You can burn all the books you want, shut down all the papers you want, but what’s inside our heads, what’s contained within all those “1”s and “0”s is what effects change. Seriously, what am I missing?

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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