February 04, 2010

Tidbits and Tiddlywinks: The End of Newspapers Edition

Old Chronicle :: New Chronicle

Well, continuing the end of newspapers discussion (mentioned here before), I'd like to say: I didn't read the San Francisco Chronicle much when I was home at Christmas. For the first time ever.

Initially I was turned off by the much touted redesign (see photo above). What the pictures can't tell you is that the paper is actually smooth, and shiny--more like a magazine than a newspaper. Mom says it is because the photos show up better. I don't care. If I wanted to read a slippery magazine with out of date stories...I'd read Newsweek.

The fact is, they installed some "state-of-the-art" offset printing presses. I assume they are cheaper...though I don't see how they could be. Now, rather than having green paper for the Sporting Green or pink paper for the Datebook, they print a green or pink tint on the page. Surely that takes a lot of ink?!

Ok, sorry: most of this is gibberish if you haven't lived in SF. Two things really stopped me from reading the paper: 1) there were hardly any interesting stories and 2) what stories they had were riddled with typos. Now I've read the Chronicle my whole life, and I can only remember a handful of typos. Why don't you keep the copy editors and forget the expensive presses?

But, it's a tough game out there, I know. Most papers are desperately trying to find their niche--and that niche is not likely to be in news since it's much faster and easier to get real-time news online (how is the AP doing in all this turmoil? Pretty well, I'd imagine.) So the Chronicle, in an aesthetically minded modern city, does a slick re-design, and fires their copy-editors.

Well...I don't think it will work. I've long said that as news becomes more immediate and national/international, newspapers need to become more local: dealing with the pulse of the area--arts, food, wine, culture, history, and local heroes, as well as local politics and opinion. The stuff that you won't get in a AP news feed.

In the meantime, here are some links about newspapers + news journalism:

+ The Atlantic argues that newspaper writing has gotten bogged down with cliches and false tricks. What is needed, then, are real news writers:
But providing “context,” as it was known, has become an invitation to hype. In this case, it’s the lowest form of hype—it’s horse-race hype—which actually diminishes a story rather than enhancing it. Surely if this event is such a big, big deal—“sweeping” and “defining” its way into our awareness—then its effect on the next election is one of the less important things about it. There’s an old joke about the provincial newspaper that reports a nuclear attack on the nation’s largest city under the headline “Local Man Dies in NY Nuclear Holocaust.” Something similar happens at the national level, where everything is filtered through politics

+ Meanwhile, the New York Review of Books argues against Google's claim to aide Newspapers. Not sure where I stand on this one...I'm just linking. (I know, I have an opinion on everything. Just not this time.)

+ Also on NYRB, I've just discovered the writings of Robert Darnton, the author of The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future. He's been writing a lot about the GoogleBooks project. Read him here.

+ Also: This was a great article on the perils of the "contact me" button for newsmen and authors:
“You know what?” he said. “I always answer. Every author I have ever known answers the phone the same way — on the first ring. We’re all so desperate for anything to intrude on our solitude and to take us away from that blank screen. E-mails do the same thing, and I’m embarrassed to say how quickly I read them.”

The Sporting Green

1 comment:

  1. Maggie:

    " Now I've read the Chronicle my whole life, and I can only remember a handful of typos."

    You cannot possibly appreciate how funny this is to someone my age, who grew up with a Chronicle that was legendary for typos: box scores filled with random characters, whole paragraphs out of place or carved into tiny pieces, and mispelled werds evryware.