Monday, July 19, 2010

Are Newspapers Killing Themselves?

The many stories on the demise of newspapers are found in newspapers, magazines and online media, and the blame is put on many sources. Is it the free Internet, the lack of timeliness compared to broadcast media’s immediacy, or the citizen journalists with their blogs and their on-the-scene reportorial endeavors with their ubiquitous camera phones? Andrew Stroehlein, communications director of the International Crisis Group, believes that “Citizen journalism is like citizen dentistry.”

No Death Defying Headlines

The bold-faced headlines and sub-headlines in a newspaper are what first catch the reader’s attention, and the killer instinct writing them can be a turn off. In the 12-page front section of today’s San Jose Mercury News there were the following headlines concerning “news” from around the United States; “Park shooting kills 2,” “Off-duty cop killed,”  “Man dies in flash flood,” and “Scout dies in fall.” The international news also offered carnage-like headlines: “Dozens killed as trains collide in eastern India,” “Two miners killed (in China),” “Bomb kills former insurgents,” and “Gunmen massacre 17 at a party in Mexico.”

Death Takes a Holiday

These eight front-section headlines concerned stories describing the deaths of 113 human beings including forty-nine in the train collision and 40 former insurgents. It is therefore comforting to find one section of the newspaper that is a respite away from such large numbers — today’s Obituary Page that only lists seven people who have recently departed. There may have been more who passed on but an obit can be expensive and unaffordable for many. However, they are a source of much-needed money for newspapers in a down economy. When a family member dies, along with purchasing a cemetery plot, a casket or an urn, contracting a funeral parlor for a hearse, and hiring a eulogizer, unless the person was well known or did something special in their lifetime, someone has to pay for an obituary for them and pay by the line. At the Mercury News the cost for each line of copy is $18, and one must dig up an additional $108 to include a photograph of the deceased. A short, 100-word obituary to describe the highlights of a person’s life would take up twenty-two lines and cost $396 plus $108 for the photograph. That’s a total of $504 to run the obituary for one day and during a time of emotional and financial stress, a well-respected former obit writer described those costs as being “criminal.”



1 comment:

Bill Clinton said...

About time somebody said it, Doc.

But down to business now.
Do we support or oppose the man currently sitting in the White House? I'm not sure what side we are supposed to be on right now. And the harsh words coming from the democratic congress are not helping.