Thursday, September 22, 2016

The disappearing printed newspaper: The N&O

With the naming of Sarah Glines as the President and Publisher of The News & Observer, the newspaper’s writing soon may be exclusively on the wall or some other flat surface.

It’s at least a bit closer now than ever before. It probably won’t be long that it’s so, exclusively.

It could be the wall of a Facebook page or the face wall of a smart phone or a notebook or a laptop or the old-fashioned desk-top computer.

Don’t be surprised if one day soon or a few days later that’s where you’ll only be able to find The Old Reliable, The News & Observer, published since way before our time and tossed in the wee hours of the morning onto countless driveways and yards, sold at many a newsstands, hawked on the streets of Raleigh by vendors who carried the newspaper in large satchels, and responsible for thousands of stained hands from newsprint ink that easily smears, or used to.

Don’t be surprised at all if the glory days of the printed edition of the bastion of North Carolina Democratic Party politics disappears from our eyes and from our morning breakfast table, from it being folded under an arm of a business executive trying to carry a briefcase (also being replaced by smart technology) while drinking a cup of coffee.

It will be no blame of Ms. Glines that the printed news will be disappearing from our very eyes and hands. She’s will not be the reason for the demise of newsprint and ink and the churning of the rapidly running presses that occasionally fail on the morning after an important event; she’s just the messenger who appears to have been hired to address the decline of the printed newspaper and increase The N&O’s on-line presence, to increase its viewership—sounds like TV—and electronic readership and cyber “browsership” or whatever you want to call it.

She has arrived in Raleigh to convince internet surfers to The N&O’s website to click on or touch an advertisement so the newspaper’s expenses are covered by the online commercial while the printed paid announcements disappear from our hands and fall into cyberspace.

Here’s a little background on Ms. Glines, something you may have missed completely by not getting the print edition or you might have skipped over on the newspaper’s website or smart phone app. You may have actually read about her as you held the newspaper in your hands, much like we do with books we are encouraged to pick up in our hands, to go to the library to check out, and read.

Ms. Glines is a veteran of writing and reporting the news as well as developing newspaper presence, especially in out-lying areas. She’s a wizard at increasing awareness of all the media she has touched. She wants to prepare the newspaper for the future which is code for less print and more Internet. Her impressive credentials are too long to list but are easily retrievable at the newspaper’s website: Sarah Glines named Publisher of The News & Observer.

Here’s a scary prediction, at least to me. First, the newspaper will cut back on days of the print edition, combining Monday with Tuesday, Wednesday with Thursday, and Friday with Saturday. So, with the Sunday newspaper, we’ll get four days of print, maybe. Eventually, the print edition will decrease to two days, Sunday and Wednesday, as Ms. Glines and staff continue the push readership to the website, and then, maybe, the printed newspaper will disappear completely. This may actually reduce “circulation/readership.”

Most of us are savvy about getting our news from sources who report it the way we want it. For instance, there are several sources for NC State Wolfpack sports, though in some cases, such as the athletics department site,, the writing leads one to believe the Wolfpack always wins even when losing. Many “non-official-news media” sites give us terrible reporting that’s much more biased but less opinionated than The N&O. But that’s what those other website followers want, the gospel according to the fans.

Another example: The N&O’s baseball coverage (print and on-line) doesn’t hold a candle to where there’s more information, more stats, more game insight, more play-by-play, and videos that are fun to watch over and over. If you’re getting results from the Internet, is much better than The N&O.

For the Donald Trump fans or the Hillary Clinton followers, why wade through coverage from people who are supposed to be non-biased when you can cut to the chase, cut to what you want to hear by clicking on several websites to give you the biased reporting to start your day off in a good mood instead of one that adversarial.

 Even the comics are funnier through Google searches, and there are more of them than published by The News & Observer.

The dark day when the presses stop rolling in Raleigh is coming. The print edition of The News & Observer is slowly going away. The advertising is just not available, we are told, to pay for it. Circulation has been hurt with the Internet, we are told. Having fewer staff writers means less original reporting and more use of wire service stories, especially McClatchy originated articles. (Hey! Go to the McClatchy DC app which is great for politics and find complete stories that have many times been edited for the local print edition.)

However, all that said here’s something for President and Publisher Glines to ask herself: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is the sky falling because it’s so expensive to print and distribute the newspaper while the advertising to support it is down? Or has the reduction of staff also taken a hit on the quality of the writing and reporting so the readership is turning elsewhere and therefore with reduced circulation the advertising has turned away.

If you can answer those questions, you may have the answer for the chicken and egg query.  And you could be on to something which could lead to a resurgence of the print edition. Doubtful! 

Best bet is we’re seeing the final days of the printed newspaper. Ms. Glines has a job to do. Just how quickly it happens is to be seen, and probably on-line.

EDITOR NOTE: My parents, long before me, and I are long-time subscribers to The News & Observer print edition. Daily I retrieve the newspaper from my front yard and read it while drinking a cup of coffee and/or taking my morning constitutional. Balancing the iPad on my knees is not easy to do.