Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Attack of the Killed Tomatoes and the Future of Newspapers

Now that my spouse's picture was featured in a local article about the tomato blight, I've had people at work, a neighbor, even staff at my chiropractor's, come to me to say "I saw (spouse's) picture in the paper!" (it was a picture of him pointing out one of our plants, dead from the blight). This, along with their stories of their killed tomatoes. Tomato season RIP.

So what is the significance of this? How can blighted tomatoes be related to the blighted newspaper industry? (since I have a relative who works for a newspaper, who lost her position but was able to stay on-at least for now-in another position, I do care very much).

The good news: this picture didn't appear in the online edition. So if they saw it it means that they saw it in the print newspaper....although maybe only people who work with me or help keep my back operational still read it. Maybe no one else is. My 19 year old son certainly is not.

The bad news:

1. If our local paper doesn't stop delivering the paper to my co workers at 9:30 am, 10:30 am or never, they are going to lose their remaining readers. For some reason, this got shared as they shared their experiences with their late tomato plants. This means, maybe, that people my age care just as much about their missing newspapers as their dead tomato plants. Press and Sun Bulletin, take note!

2. One person told me "she heard" that the paper is using employees to deliver papers "on the side" (I guess before work). Is this what the newspaper industry has come to?

3. My relative, above, reports that her co-workers are being "encouraged" to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. Well if her local paper is looking to Facebook and Twitter as a lifeline (drowning people grab onto anything in reach)...I don't think it is going to happen. As an example, I can point to the Press and Sun Bulletin website during the mass shooting in Binghamton back in April - they carried a Twitter feed from witnesses. A number of these witnesses were people (my guess from the maturity of the posts, students) locked down at Binghamton High School, who were able to see the ACA from their building. Most of the twits...I mean, tweets... were either snarky comments directed to previous commenters, or tweets that were totally random and meaningless. Finding actual news on the Twitter feed was like panning for gold. The reason may well have been because not that much was visible from the outside. My favorite part was the tweet announcing that the tweeter had just seen a sniper on the roof of a nearby building. Thanks for sharing!

As for Facebook, I am (really, I am) going to post my experiences. It is wonderful for what it can do, but it is not a newspaper. I don't think it will work for newspapers the way that blogs on newspaper websites have. Stay tuned for my report.

Hmmm....switching from blighted tomato plants to the future of newspapers all in one blog post. That's ramblin' at its best. But not journalism...which is the point of all of this. Journalism is not Facebook. It is not Twitter. I don't have the answer for the decline of newspapers. But embracing sites that may hardly exist in 5 years (think about MySpace) is not the answer.

I hope very much that the newspaper industry does find the answer. And soon.

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