When Did You Last Read a Newspaper? Me, I Can't Remember

By  |  Monday, April 6, 2009 at 11:10 am

Boston GlobeOn Friday, word came out that the New York Times is threatening to shut down the print incarnation of the Boston Globe unless the paper’s unions agree to $20 million in cost reductions. As a former Bostonian, I still think of the Globe as one of my hometown papers–and my current hometown paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, is currently under a similar deathwatch imposed by its owner, Hearst.

I’m shocked and distressed by both developments. But I’m also part of the problem. I stopped subscribing to the Globe years before I left Boston, and have never taken the Chronicle. The last print paper I subscribed to was the New York Times, and I canceled that a couple of years ago–in part because it kept getting stolen off my stoop, but also because it often sat unread in my living room.

But it’s not just that I don’t need any newspaper enough to pay to get it delivered to my home. I’m having trouble remembering the last time I read any copy of any newspaper. It was probably a USA Today that was sitting outside my hotel room during a trip–when I pick up that paper and stick it on the dresser, I usually glance at the headlines, at least. But not always. And I can’t tell you when I last spent enough time with USA Today to open the paper up and read the stories it contained. (By the time I encounter it, I’ve usually read a lot of news. On the Web. Which I can do without so much as opening the door.)

I’m feeling guilty just writing this–I grew up in a family that subscribed to three or four papers; my first job was delivering the Boston Herald (badly); I used to spend hours in the Boston Public Library’s newspaper room reading articles and comics from around the world; and I might not have gotten into the profession I did if it weren’t for all that exposure to inspiring journalism printed on dead trees. But I get my news from the Web now, with a dose of radio and a smidgen of TV. I don’t think I could retrain myself to read papers if I tried.

Here’s a little silly T-Poll:


Read more: 

19 Comments For This Post

  1. @dosequis Says:

    The newspapers will die, but probably not without a fight.

  2. Bob L. Says:

    It is a part of my weekend routine. Sat/Sun paper. Small town news still works in print. The big city? Not so sure.

  3. KMB Says:

    It seems inevitable that print newspapers will die out, if they continue along the path they’ve been on for a hundred years. It’s true, I’m also part of the problem – within the past year I canceled my subs to the Globe, the NYT and the Wall Street Journal. Just too much money for piles of paper accumulating in my office. But I’ve also watched with frustration as the Globe would launch seemingly desperate campaigns to ‘connect’ with the young readers – that goofy SideKick section, which is now called “G” (whatever that means). It’s like watching old dogs pretend they know how to do new tricks. And while Boston.com is apparently doing well, I don’t think it’s very well put together in today’s FaceBook/Twitter/blogging standards.

    I just hope there’s a bunch of really smart people strategizing a compelling online presence for the Globe; one that taps into how people are actually behaving online (hint: FaceBook, Twitter, blogging, SOCIAL, community, etc) and perhaps even figuring out how a differently modeled print publication could supplement, complement or enhance that online effort. I don’t know what that is, but I have to believe there’s a really smart strategy in there and that someone at the Globe is pulling it all together.

    And fast – you have 30 days!

  4. Jerry Beck Says:

    I still read the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal print editions every day during lunch. But I’m excited about online journalism and read Variety (which i used to subscribe to) online… but I will miss print newspapers – the same way I’m nostalgic for Archie’s Mad House, Sugar & Spike, Richie Rich, and World’s Finest Comics.

    It wouldn’t surprise me in fifteen years that there are only two print newspapers: USA TODAY and THE NEW YORK TIMES. They will both be national papers, with local sections.

  5. Stephen Turner Says:

    One appears at work sometimes. We get free local papers through our doors in the UK too. But I haven’t actually purchased one more than a few times in my life. And I’m 38.

  6. Robert Mullins Says:

    I resubscribed to the San Jose Mercury News recently after a six-month absence. I didn’t miss the hard copy version, but they called and offered it to me for just $2.50 a week. I did it partly to support a friend of mine who works there and has managed to survive multiple rounds of layoffs. She tells me they’re likely losing money at $2.50 a week, but the strategy is just to shore up circulation numbers. I also still get the Sunday New York Times. I suspect a lot of people maintain their Sunday NYT subs because lounging around the house, drinking coffee and reading the paper remains a Sunday morning ritual, like going to Mass! I think newspapers are going to have to develop some system of micropayments, or an annual subscription, to shore up revenues. I make an annual payment to WSJ for unlimited access online and I think nothing of it.

  7. Emily Says:

    Couple weeks ago… but I only bought it because there was a photo and article I wanted in print, of the owl that landed across the street from work. The Post is 75 cents now!

  8. waynepoetic Says:

    I get national news online, but I love my local paper to find out what’s happening in the community (selectmen meetings, HS sports, stuff to buy, etc.).

  9. GoodOlBoy Says:

    “I’m shocked and distressed by both developments. But I’m also part of the problem. ”

    Clearly you are a POS.

    But the better question is when did you pay $50 to try to sell a car through a classified ad in your local paper? Or advertise an apartment for rent trying to use 2 lines and 25 cryptic words. Or found a job through the newspaper?

    It’s the collapse of ad revenue that is doing in these papers, and I dont see much reason to feel guilty about not continuing to get ripped off over paying for tiny type and a restrictive number of words that you have to submit 5 business days in advance.

  10. DTNick Says:

    Sure, you can get seemingly unlimited amounts of news/info/entertainment through the web, there’s still something about reading a newspaper that appeals to me. Maybe it’s not having to stare at a screen for a half an hour. Or maybe it’s because it’s a throwback to a simpler time. Or maybe it’s the fact that I can spread out the paper instead of being confined to a relatively small screen. Whatever the reason, reading a paper or print magazine still has something going for it. Maybe the key to newspaper survival is to make reading a newspaper not just something you do to get the news: make it an experience. Maybe this guy is onto something:


  11. JDoors Says:

    Daily, for the same reason others have mentioned: Local news and information.

    It took me a while to find a paper that made any effort to keep their personal biases to themselves. Yeah, you run a paper, so your opinion is … what? Important? Nope. Just give me the news and keep your opinions on the editorial pages thankyouverymuch.

  12. R A Jensen Says:

    Newspapers have tended to de-emphasize actual news reporting, while large amounts of newsprint real estate is given over to advertising. In my local dailies, close to 85% of the main section is advertising. Less and less useful news is being presented, and what is printed is not well balanced. Also a lot less local reporting. What do people want to see more of at this time — I think exactly the opposite of what the newspapers are offering. BTW — notice how much national and international news is reprinted?

    The newspapers have been slow to change, if they’ve tried at all, their business models (seems to be a common problem with industries with large, built up infrastructures:: auto, communications, entertainment etc — see a trend here??) What happened to town criers when the printed paper came along?

    Adapt or perish.

  13. Dave Mackey Says:

    The last newspaper subscription at my house lapsed shortly after my first wife died. I just didn’t care to get my news that way any more. The Internet is just more immediate. Nowadays I only buy a newspaper if I have a crossword I wrote in it.

  14. Anne B. McDonald Says:

    Last held the NY Times in my hands two weeks ago, then dropped it for budgetary reasons. I still like the paper more than the web site.

  15. Drew Says:

    I teach HS (AP Human Geo and Intro to Engineering) so I get the newspaper free during the week (and read it every day), and pay for the weekend (Fri-Sun) papers at home. Bob L. makes a good point in terms of big town/small town. We get a lot of real reporting in our local paper, but the national/international side is little more than a clipping service. I get better (and fresher) articles online.

  16. 42itous Says:

    I am saddened to see the great US newspapers like the NY Times get in trouble, but I look across “the Pond” and see a very different picture – many European newspapers have avoided the sad predicament by being much more proactive, creative, and aggressive in embracing the web. I do subscribe to the Spanish daily El Pais, and I pay 80 Euros a year. I could get the text content of EP online for free, but E80 gets me a PDF version of the printed paper; and there is a LOT to like about the PDF edition: lots, and lots of wonderful, informative photos, great graphs, charts, and info-graphics, outstanding travelogues with detailed, beautifully designed maps, etc. I really LOVE my El Pais, and will continue to subscribe. Now, I’d be more than willing to subscribe to a PDF (exactly the same as print, but no paper) version of, say, weekend Times with the Book Review (El Pais has a Saturday supplement called Babelia, that fulfills the same function, but is much more informative, and less dry), and I would gladly pay for it, but alas none of the US papers I might be interested in are available in this format, an most put much less emphasis on meaningful, carefully selected visuals. Ironically, on Thursdays EP includes a supplement called NYTimes highlights (in Spanish) – it’s sad the same type of publication cannot be purchased from the Times in English!

  17. Simon Says:

    I have read some articles cut out of the newspaper by friends or family or school, but I have never actually purchased a newspaper and read it

  18. jones123peter Says:

    I can see that you have an expertise on this topic, I would very much like to hear more from you on this subject – I’ve bookmarked this and will return soon more about it, thank you. Lån trots skuldsaldo

  19. juhi123 Says:

    i love to read newspaper daily its my habit sivil havacılık