When do you give up on your newspaper?

I moved to Alaska because of the Anchorage Daily News. Not because I had a job offer from the Daily News — that would be normal — but because I had subscribed to the newspaper from Chicago, where Brian and I stopped for almost a year in 1994, to be among family while having our first child. Planning our next move, and wanting it to be somewhere beautiful, wild, and coastal, we subscribed to a number of newspapers, and only two stand out in memory: papers from Seattle and Anchorage. Newspaper articles (and ads) told us about the people in those places, what they valued, how they lived.

The Seattle newspaper I remember reading had a Sunday magazine cover feature about Tom Robbins, author of Still Life With Woodpecker. That was cool. (It also had lots of ads for things like really expensive high-heeled shoes.) The Anchorage version of the Sunday magazine, “We Alaskans,” had articles that were just as well written, but about people who weren’t famous: like a man taking his daughter on her first hunt. That was even cooler. (And no shoe ads.)

I’ll skip over the death of “We Alaskans,” an old subject, though it was the first step in a long decline. Recently, the Daily News decided to close its Juneau Bureau, though I can’t figure out how we’ll know anything about state government and Sarah Palin without an effective Juneau Bureau; I read about it in the Alaska Dispatch (a website — go figure). Now, we hear the Anchorage Daily News is getting rid of its Outdoors section, and slimming down in other ways.

Blame the economy, blame a failure to adapt or a willingness to adapt in a too-generic way, blame the decline of print and the rise of electronic media. I, for one, wish the Daily News had been more innovative and more Alaska-spirited throughout this process. But anyway, my question is: when do you give up on reading your local newspaper?

Because I still LIKE the newspaper. I like that it can sit out on the kitchen island and a person can pick it up here and there, reading throughout the morning, or the next day. I like that several people can read one newspaper, sharing the sections, showing each other what they read. (One person behind the laptop screen feels antisocial compared to reading the newspaper with family.) I like that when I mention an article to someone else in my community, chances are they will recognize what I’m talking about, and we’ll all share a baseline of information, a springboard for conversation. I like that I don’t agree with half of what I read in the newspaper, that the editorial voice is not my voice, so that I’m not just reading my own views over and over. I like that I recognize the reporters’ names and still believe that they those reporters are being guided by editors, with expectations for factual reporting and responsibility to the community. (And expectations for copyediting. There is a typo in that last sentence which I only spotted an hour after first posting this, but I’m going to leave it there, to make a point.)

But still — when do you give up? When is the newspaper too thin — and too stodgy, and too unresponsive to subscribers — to support?

I’m curious what others think.

4 thoughts on “When do you give up on your newspaper?”

  1. I’m thinking about it. In fact, I just blogged about it today (http://peevishpen.blogspot.com). I’ve watched the medium-size-city paper I’ve read daily since I was a kid get progressively smaller, more error-filled, less newsy and more warm-fuzzy. But it has a lot more ads for stuff I neither want nor need.

    My column, which appeared every other week in a regional weekly, was recently dropped. The publisher can no longer afford to pay columnists.

    Things don’t bode well for newspapers these days.

  2. I still read ADN most days…but online. In my case, it’s not about a connection to the paper itself, though; I was only in Alaska for 4 years. For me, it’s more about just keeping up with the place itself.

    I know what you mean, though. My hometown newspaper, never a prize to begin with, has really gone downhill…and it makes me sad. When it was a locally owned and independent paper, at least it had some personality. Now that it’s owned by a gigantic media corporation, well, yuck.

  3. Despite a decade in the news biz, I’m giving up. I’d love to keep the ADN, but these days, I don’t see much Alaska in it. I would love to be the kind of person who finds time to read the print version of the paper each day, but I have almost always read the online version before the real thing arrives at my door. So I’m dropping my subscription.

  4. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Thanks for commenting, Carey. The strange evolution (or devolution) of Alaska media continues…

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