Monday, November 7, 2016

Fish Wrapper Blues

I am showing my age here but I still have a smidgen of nostalgia for authentic, dead tree, delivered to your front door newspapers.  

There are many reasons why newspapers are in decline.  The electronic world provides faster news.  We don't as a general rule live in compact communities where delivery of the paper is practical.  To some extent we have gotten out of the habit of reading at all.

Oh, there are some places where they remain viable.  Its a treat to go to London and see several papers being sold and read widely on the streets.  It must have once been so in all major and most minor cities.  

We formerly got two papers.  One from a larger city an hours drive away, another from just down the street.  Each was enjoyable in its own way.  The Big Paper had a fun Bulletin Board feature that we read and sometimes wrote for.  I could follow my favorite baseball team in detail.  There were columnists whose writing style and even personality you got to know and appreciate.  The Small Town paper of course was mostly to see who had died, gotten arrested or on a happier note, hit a home run in last night's Little League game.

We let the Local go first.  Our children were grown up and no longer playing Little League (although I suspect they still could in the Dominican Republic!).  In a small community you generally hear quickly about the deaths.  We did not know many of the arrestees.

We stuck it out with the Big Paper for a long time.  They would up the price a little here, shave a few pages off the product there, but the ritual was the same.  Wake up.  Coffee. Get the paper off the front porch.  You generally would glean at least a little information from it. And in recent years we started doing the crosswords with the diligence of near oldsters with a mystical belief in mental excercise as a delaying tactic for senility.

Eventually they couldn't find a local delivery person and the paper stopped.  They ambled back into the picture a while later but with an offer that was ridiculously expensive based on past experience, but probably realistic given the economics of the business.  We declined.

Not long ago we heard from both The Local and The Big City Paper.  Similar offers so I guess this is some kind of Newspaper Industry trend.  "How would you like to get our paper, for approximately nothing?".  One offered a month's worth for a dollar.  Another a year's worth of the Sunday only for a price that worked out to fifty cents per week.  

Both offers came by circuitous routes.  Phone calls from obvious third party telemarketer types. But when we called up the newspapers we were told the offers were legit.  And it was something we actually appreciated especially at the bargain price.  We said yes to both.

The Local Paper turned up on our doorstep for about eight days and then stopped coming.  The Big City paper continues to arrive every Sunday.  But we have started to get notices that we are behind on a surprisingly hefty bill to them.  Having already paid up for a year of Bargain Papers I politely tell them that they are mistaken, but no doubt they will stop our paper soon. It seems to be a pattern.

So at some point the mighty Newspaper Industry has not only declined into a wan shadow of its former glories, but it has also been infiltrated by petty grifters.  Maybe these unaccountable but loosely affiliated telemarketer types are equivalent to soot smeared Newsboys of a long past era. I am pretty sure they would jack up the price of The Daily for a prosperous looking customer, and I would not at all put it past them to occasionally short the clientele of the Sports Section.

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