Cancel the Paper.
August 1, 2001 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Cancel the Paper. Do you subscribe your local daily paper? (If it's not NY or DC or LA.) If so, do you actually read it? Did you ever subscribe? If so, why did you quit? What about the local alternative (weekly or otherwise)?
posted by jdbanks (37 comments total)
I can see why people reading piece such as the one posted from the paper where the article appeared would feel no qualms about dumping their subscription.
posted by Postroad at 12:34 PM on August 1, 2001

Done deal. Canceled my local paper over a year ago.
Why? I don't care much for pablum and the editorials and opinion pieces aligned too closely with corporate moonies.

Canceled cable TV several months ago too.
Why? Faux TV News was getting residuals from my cable payment. Ewwww....nasty! Even worse corporate moonies there. Find real news on TV and I'll apologize to Aaron for talking mean to him. Ain't gonna happen, eh?

I heard consortiumnews is trying to organize a TV superstation for real news. That might be worth a shot.
Hope springs eternal.
posted by nofundy at 12:35 PM on August 1, 2001

When our paper started pushing the use of the CueCat, I dumped our subscription.
posted by misterioso at 12:42 PM on August 1, 2001

I subscribe to the local daily (The Providence Journal) for one reason: Mark Patinkin. I just love his sharp, snappy commentaries on life in Rhode Island. For example, his recent column "My $100 Gift Certificate for a Plate of Grief", Mark tries to demystify the ways of women for us regular guys. As mark says, women are "walking minefields with make-up on". You said it, Patink-man!

I also need my Lifebeat to keep up with the leisure time activities and available to me in Providence and the human-interest goings on. I like to keep up on the miniature horse situation as well (this was seriously in the paper for weeks).

The local alternative weekly, The Providence Phoenix, is great, too. The best part is the "Erotic Personals" in the Erosphere insert.
posted by jeb at 12:55 PM on August 1, 2001

I've never subscribed to a newspaper and never really had any idea why I should want to. Whether I'm looking for superficial reporting, gutless banal opinion pieces, rah-rah corporate boosterism, repackaged wire-service stories, endless intrusive advertisement, or unbelievably stupid reader comments, I can get it all on the 'net, and this way I don't have to deal with recycling the damn thing afterward or shuffling through half a pound of sports and entertainment pages to find whatever it is I'm looking for.

posted by Mars Saxman at 1:05 PM on August 1, 2001

I'd subscribe to one of the local newspapers, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, except they don't do home-delivery in Minneapolis. As a result I subscribe to the New York Times instead. The Minneapolis paper pretty much sucks (Lileks being the obvious exception), having seemingly forgotten that it's a local newspaper. The Press revels in the fact it's the St. Paul paper. The Minneapolis Star Tribune generally seems more focused on the suburbs and the World at large than it does its own city. That's a shame.

Growing up near Milwaukee, I always enjoyed waking up to a scrappy, mildly pissed-off newspaper (The Sentinel). It's sad to see that kind of paper go by the wayside.
posted by mrbula at 1:23 PM on August 1, 2001

I get most of my news from Highlights magazine. It's just so unspoiled by corporate hands.
(don't let Disney know)
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 1:23 PM on August 1, 2001

I tried subscribing to the San Francisco Chronicle for a while but just didn't read it that regularly. I get most of my local news off their web site and the rest from alternative sources.

So I cancelled. Or tried to cancel. Despite repeated phone calls they never stopped delivery. So I stopped paying the bill. That eventually worked.
posted by obfusciatrist at 1:36 PM on August 1, 2001

I work for a local newspaper (circulation of about 37K with a 4 county population of around 150K, in a market that has 4 region-wide dailies, and we're the leaders) and I find no reason to read it every day.

I build our websites, and I know that everything from each of the four editions of our paper goes up online. If I want local news, I go to our site. If I want national news, I hit the usual suspects. My wife, on the other hand, religiously reads the statewide daily (our main competitor) that she subscribes to and the paper I work for (I get a mandatory... er, complimentary, subscription).

When she was in Germany for five weeks earlier this summer, I was amazed and appalled by the sheer volume of newsprint that's delivered to my house every day. I can't imagine that I would subscribe to a paper at all if not for her.
posted by sjarvis at 1:55 PM on August 1, 2001

I used to be a daily subscriber, until about five years ago. I dropped it as I was reading it on the net or through Avantgo and I usually only wanted Sundays. I tended to read the NY Times daily no matter where I lived until this point a few years ago. I find I don't miss much by reading on-line except the Washington Post Weekend section on Friday's does not carry over well on the Web.

I find the payment systems of many papers, except the NY Times to be rather arcane also. Getting a post card to let me know what is due gets lost in the stacks of other mail.
posted by vanderwal at 1:55 PM on August 1, 2001

there is no daily newspaper in the land which could possibly suck more than the Grand Rapids Press. they can't even be bothered to do thier own website.
posted by quonsar at 1:59 PM on August 1, 2001

I canceled because my daily did a crappy job of covering local news. Plus, the national news it ran was always 1-5 days old - already read that stuff online. Also, the newspaper didn't have an ounce of investigative journalism to it, often running company news releases, even on controversial issues. Bah. The TV news is even worse. They get their news ideas the day after - from reading the newspaper.
posted by fleener at 2:10 PM on August 1, 2001

wow, tough crowd. I kind of like the Minneapolis Star and Tribune. They have some really good photographers. I intermitantly subsribe as funds allow, but I usually just buy a copy at Al's Breakfast
posted by chrismc at 2:13 PM on August 1, 2001

I subscribe to our local paper, but only because my wife insists on cutting coupons. It works too, because we consistently save at least three or four times the cost of the paper. Of course, the rest of the paper gets immediately trashed. Hmmm. If only I could get the NY Times to start carrying Sunday coupons.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:21 PM on August 1, 2001

I subscribe to our local paper, but only because my wife insists on cutting coupons.

Coupons are a big reason a lot of people subscribe to print versions of their local papers even when all the editorial content is online, free.

And not just coupons, but ads in general. People want to know about sales and such. No joke.

Also, a lot of the features that people really like in newspapers -- features you don't always think about, like obituaries, classifieds, wedding announcements, comic strips, recipes, goings-on calendars, etc. -- tend to get all garbled up presentation-wise on the Web (due to crappy automated code converters). It's usually much easier to actually read these things in the print versions of a local paper.
posted by bilco at 2:39 PM on August 1, 2001

My parents subscribe to the Star Tribune, if that counts. What struck me most is how most of their front page headlines suck.
posted by gleemax at 2:43 PM on August 1, 2001

Our little biweekly area paper is free and comes unbidden in our post office box, and now they have a web site too. So, we don't "subscribe", but I've gotten used to browsing through it - it's a rather high quality paper for being so 'small'. And yes, since the ads in it are extremely 'local' and thus relevant, I find those fun to glance through as well - see what them thar people in yonder town are doing up. *grin* If it didn't come free, however, I wouldn't subscribe - not because it's not a good paper, but because I really would just browse online, and I don't need all the newspapers piling up to recycle. And the only time I read a major newspaper online is when I find an interesting article link somewhere, but I don't just go to browse.
posted by thunder at 2:49 PM on August 1, 2001

Once baseball season's done, so is my local embarassment, purposefully equivalent to the other local embarassment. Having worked in newspapers and fled when I felt nearly all of me go numb, let me try to be brief and say that timidity, self-censorship, slavery to consensus and that sort of fear endemic to the would-be respectable bourgeouis have ground newspapers into worthlessness. Would that I could disinter the jawbone of H.L. Mencken and slay a thousand beige-hearted editors.
posted by argybarg at 3:43 PM on August 1, 2001

Ugh, those links failed. I'll just whisper: Seattle P-I, Seattle Times. When the Mariners play in Seattle, the photos are by Associated Press. Pathetic.
posted by argybarg at 3:45 PM on August 1, 2001

Best paper I've had the pleasure of reading: the San Francisco Chronicle. Best memory of living in Mountain View, California in the mid-to-late 90s: Sunday morning, enjoying Noah's Bagels (sesame, lathered with shmear) and Trader Joe's Ultra-Roast Bay Blend coffee, and devouring nearly every inch of the Chron. Four years later, living in Texas, I occasionally peruse the companion site for zinger headlines and occasional tech-commentary, but without the bagels & TJ brand of coffee, I don't think I could bring myself to read a "hard copy" of the Chron.

< /end nostalgia>
posted by davidmsc at 3:57 PM on August 1, 2001

I used to read the Boston Globe everyday, from about 7th grade until after I graduated from college. I loved reading the paper, and I used to read it all the way through, from beginning to end, almost like a book. But once I started consulting and traveling non-stop, I cancelled my subscription and started getting all my news online.

About sixteen months ago, I starting subscribing to the Sunday NYTimes because I missed reading the paper, I missed actually touching something and turning the pages, and being able to do so in bed with a cup of coffee. I don't read as much of it as I'd like, but I like the way it changes my Sundays. I'm less likely to pop online as soon as I wake up to find out what's going on, and that seems to start my day off well.
posted by megnut at 5:11 PM on August 1, 2001

Just so you all know, I don't like coffee.
posted by gleemax at 5:29 PM on August 1, 2001

I think you folks are being a bit harsh, valid as many of your criticisms may be, and I'm not sure you realize how good you have it. The situation in Japan is truly wacky.

There are four major dailies, all are sold nationwide, each boasts circulation figures in the millions, and the columnists are all timid as mice. It's laughable (kinda sad, really). I'm quite sure the Dallas Morning News reads like gritty, investigative journalism by comparison.

The reason behind the timidity is a sketchy "press club" arrangement that, as Michael Hoffman writes in Tokyo Confidential, "treats access to highly-placed sources as a privilege rather than a right, [so] journalists strain to stay on the good side of their official contacts, and if that means sanitizing the news, it's a price they seem willing to pay."

A number of Japan's weekly magazines, on the other hand, work outside the establishment, which frees them to report things more or less as they see them. They're sort of the "anti-tabloid." Wierd.
posted by Bixby23 at 6:04 PM on August 1, 2001

And not just coupons, but ads in general. People want to know about sales and such. No joke.

only thing i use the paper that we get for is to look at the best buy insert and see what CDs are coming out next tuesday.
posted by lotsofno at 6:12 PM on August 1, 2001

sjarvis and I share a somewhat similar occupation, and a similar disinclination to collect the fruits of our newsroom's labor.

We're not alone - newspaper readership is on a decline generally, and local readership is no exception, by a longshot. People today are far more insular than they once were when towns and cities were cohesive enough to be termed 'communities'; nowadays, most of us under 50 are far more accurately described as 'residents'.

Arguments about the septic system problems two towns over? Their problem. New police chief? Who cares. PTA or township meetings? Get a real job, people.

Of course, it doesn't help at all that reportage has become very little more than the blank playback of events, and that editorial stances... well - take this from one of our paper's front page 'Newsbreaks', by one of the associate editors:

"Weatherwise, that may have been the best July ever."

Wow. Jeez. Thanks for that insightful commentary, pal. Can I be you?

Newspapers have forgotten their roots, and I don't just mean their American roots.

There was a time when newspapers helped to define 'community' - now it's something they believe they can buy from a third party vendor based in Illinois. People don't care about local newspapers - because local newspapers have no interest in giving readers what they're interested in. They sell transcriptions of events. Recent local history.

Most of us have bigger things to worry about. And we have better things to focus our attention on when we're not worrying.
posted by Perigee at 6:53 PM on August 1, 2001

I used to subscribe to the local paper, but I stopped for two reasons: (1) City recycling does not accept newspaper. I grew up with recycling (my parents joined the first wave in the early '70's, WAY before it was compulsory); I can't bring myself to throw newspaper in the trash. (2) I wasn't satisfied with the way stories were covered, or, more specifically, not covered. It seems there are too many entities with too much say in the paper's content.
posted by mattee at 7:00 PM on August 1, 2001're saying they still print these things?
posted by jaded at 10:26 PM on August 1, 2001

Megnut nailed it for me... the newspaper is so much more than the sum of its content. Our local paper, the Portland Oregonian (won't even give the link as I don't want to send any more business their way) sucks horrendously, but I read it for the decent sports section and the (gasp!) ads. I subscribe to the Sunday NY Times and revel in my Sunday mornings in bed, stealing my precious two hours of alone time once a week. I relish the feel of the pages in my hands, the weight of the rest of the paper on the bed beside me, the slightly inky smudges on my fingertips. I just can't make the switch to reading online even though it's damned expensive to subscribe (20-ish bucks a month). And every once in a while, they try and entice me into a daily subscription by giving me eight weeks for free. I spend two months in an orgy of newspaper-oneness, then go back to my weekly fix.
posted by apollo at 10:55 PM on August 1, 2001

mattee brought up a point: I've subscribed to the local paper a couple of times, but the sheer volume of paper was just ridiculous. It filled up my trash can too quickly, littered the kitchen table beyond belief, and I refuse to recycle. So I cancelled. Bah. Why can't they produce a mini-paper, similar in size to a magazine, with some sort of staple or other binding?
posted by davidmsc at 3:57 AM on August 2, 2001

FWIW, I think the Boston Globe and the SF Chronicle kinda suck. Especially the Globe. The Sunday NYTimes/coffee ritual, though, that's priceless. Does any body in the US get the The Times, as in the one from London, on Sundays? I've heard that's pretty good, but never read it.
posted by jeb at 7:04 AM on August 2, 2001

FYI, Monju, the Sunday NY Times has coupons (not a lot, but some) when you're in New York City.

Newspapers are a funny thing -- either you read and love them or you don't get the concept at all. I've been a newspaper reader since I was a kid following my sports teams in the Newark Star-Ledger. I have the good fortune of the NYT being my hometown paper, but if I were elsewhere, I'd still get a paper every morning. My day doesn't start off right without one.
posted by werty at 8:01 AM on August 2, 2001

When I lived in NYC, I used to spend all day Sunday with the NY Times & the Times from London. It was beautiful.

I haven't every subscribed to a Pittsburgh newspaper though, and I won't. You either have the yellow-dog liberals at the Post-Gazette who lapdog our idiot mayor and all things stale and pathetic about the city or the R.M. Scaife paper, the Tribune Review, which is actually surprisingly unbiased about local political issues, but seems to employ a staff whose main journalistic credential is "I wrote for my high school paper." The writing is crappier than words.

I still get the Sunday NYT, everything else I need to know I get online or from television.
posted by Dreama at 8:04 AM on August 2, 2001

When I was in Florida, I was stuck between the Miami Herald, who's only worthwhile content is Dave Barry and the even more horrendous Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, notably mostly for TV critic Tom Jicha. The LATimes has not impressed me, so I mostly read my hometown paper, which is this little operation in Washington you may have heard of.

I'm curious as to how many folks read their hometown papers online?
posted by owillis at 8:23 AM on August 2, 2001

I'm curious as to how many folks read their hometown papers online?

Assuming that you mean by "folks", owillis, folks who don't live there any more, I can look at the readership stats for my tiny community's weekly newspaper (sorry, it would be a self link) and tell you that the answer is: nearly more than still live here.

Which kind of addresses Perigee's comment:

People don't care about local newspapers - because local newspapers have no interest in giving readers what they're interested in. They sell transcriptions of events. Recent local history.

in that readers are logging on for exactly that: the local history that the NYT, IHT, CNN, whatever aren't covering. Aside from whatever interest someone might have in them from a photographic standpoint, a photo story of the day the preschoolers learned about blowing bubbles isn't high journalism, but it did have all the grandparents, scattered all over the world, swooning with delight. My readers tell me that local history, unavailable elsewhere, is exactly what they are interested in getting from me. What is it, Perigee, that you think I should be giving them--an alternate view of world events so I'm yet another duplicator of [fill in national/international/intergalactic source of your choice]?

I might add that, in acknowledgement of just those (disposal) complaints above, this particular paper is available only online--the economics of production, distribution and disposal all make this only feasible choice for a small community.

I grew up reading the Sunday NYT and while I have fond memories of that sensory experience, they speak to me more as nostalgia than something to counteract the expenses and disposal efforts involved in getting hard copies of the news any longer. Maybe it's part of getting old, but I don't have time to have the interest in the richer portrait of another city that reading a whole paper conveys. My news comes online, these days, where I can sample it quickly and more broadly than from any printed source.
posted by salt at 10:48 AM on August 2, 2001

I remember a quote from years ago, pre-internet days of course: there's no better education than reading the entire newspaper every day. For all their faults, there's a rich experience in following a story's ins and outs in great detail as it progresses through the news. I find that online stories are not as long and not as detailed. Online stories, presented as headlines, are also less likely to accidentally entice one in. Megawati takes reins of Indonesia. OK, I know that, no reason to click. But having the story before you lets it catch your eye as you traverse the page and maybe you'll start reading.

Newspapers also learned that splitting stories from the front page to continue inside, where there's a second headline, perhaps on a slightly different note than the main, is also a way to grab readers. I know I get into stories by the back door a lot.

Having read the World section of the Chicago Tribune most every day for over a decade, I feel I'm extremely well versed in the ins and outs of international relations and what might be happening in any given corner of the globe. It makes things like Argentina's looming default not a surprise, but an event of greater significance, as you see the various G7 leaders scrambling to belie their responsibilities in the matter. The headline perspective might be a simplistic Argentina fucked up, but the tapestry of the story shows a different perspective.

Weblogs help, a great deal, but I still find what I read in the dead-tree version overall to be a richer and more rewarding experience than scanning headlines and treating all events as breaking news or factoids.

Note: It does help to have a world-class hometown paper. (Even if they did call my grandfather a Communist, just because he was a University of Chicago professor. Then again, there was another UC prof who was famous for saying Don't waste time reading the paper; anything important you'll hear about by lunchtime anyway.)
posted by dhartung at 12:56 PM on August 2, 2001

When I moved to Upstate New York I was shocked by the local newspaper. All the headlines were like this " Dogs; Five Puppies Saved From Barn Fire" or "Hospital; Eleven Workers to Be Laid Off At Local Hospital." I have never ever seen a paper use a semicolon in ALL of its headlines. I never subscribed to it . Fortunately, they dropped the semi colons soon after I moved and I ended up freelancing for them for three years. (But I never actually read the paper even when I worked for it.)
posted by miss-lapin at 3:58 PM on August 2, 2001

there is no daily newspaper in the land which could possibly suck more than the Grand Rapids Press. they can't even be bothered to do thier own website.

But it's Grand Rapids, where Fox 17 News at Ten has the top story "Someone swam in a lake in Allegan County and got a rash."

The only people I know who read the Grand Rapids Press are old people. The only people who watch local news are old people and my boyfriend's sister, who knows way too much about the personal lives of all the news anchors.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:48 AM on August 3, 2001

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