As I've done every day since I moved to Oxford, yesterday morning I walked my dog, bagged and disposed of his poop, then stopped at the newsagent's to buy a paper.
When I got home, I sat on the couch and started to read it (the newspaper, not the dog). Suddenly, I was overcome by a wave of shame, as I heard the catcalls of smartypants media bloggers:
"Oh. My. God. You're reading a newspaper? That's dead trees, ya know? And, how quaint. You're on a couch! You're sitting on something analog! I bet you're 'drinking coffee' from a 'mug' too! Luddite! I'm suspended in mid-air, sucking argon through a carbon-fiber ventilator while downloading Slashdot directly to my hippocampus! And I'm Twittering."
My vision was the result of the kerfuffle over a recent posting by the Poynter Institute's Roy Peter Clark, in which he suggested that it's the duty of every journalist to buy the newspaper. I don't know Roy Peter Clark, and I'm naturally suspicious of anyone whose moniker consists of three first names, but I'm amazed at the abuse that's being heaped on the guy.
An "Internet troll" says one Steve Yelvington, who opines: "There's nothing wrong with paper. It's your journalism that isn't relevant." Jokes Mark Potts: "Wait, I've Got Another Idea--Let's Have a Bake Sale!" "Wrong-headed" says my friend Craig Stoltz, who recommends journalists steal papers from street boxes to "help destroy the hulking structure" that stands in the way of our bright digital future. Cynthia Brumfield writes "Paper is an inefficient method of delivery and has been supplanted by virtually costless digital distribution." (Guess what: No it isn't and no it hasn't.)
I've been reading these bloggers for a while so I'm accustomed to the spittle-flinging glee they exhibit every time newspapers make a "mistake." The weirdest thing is the bitter tinge to these comments. There's a creepy sort of Oedipal thing going on. They really seem to hate newspapers and the people who create them. Dude, I want to ask, what did a newspaper ever do to you? Beat you up and take your lunch money? Turn you down for a date to the prom?
Here's the reason I think journalists should subscribe to a newspaper: not to "save" the industry or as some noble gesture. If you work at a newspaper you should subscribe to it because it's your god-damned product. If you seriously think it's doomed--if you think spending 35 cents a day contributes to some mass hysteria that afflicts only newspaper publishers, or "enables" editors the way a slice of rum cake enables Owen Wilson--then quit.
If you're embarrassed that your product is produced the same way as the Gutenberg Bible, then go start your Backfence.com. Go see if hyperlocalnewswithintherangeofmyvision.com or you-be-the-editor.net are hiring. (Go work at the Gap, even. But the minute you start mouthing off about how bricks-and-mortar retail is stoopid I hope you'll have the decency to give your notice there, too.)
Yes I understand that newspapers are in the information business, not the tree-recycling business. I know that circulation is down everywhere. I agree that the World Wide Web might just catch on. But do these hyperventilating bloggers seriously believe that simply because the perfect social media/web cam/citizen journalism/FaceBook-compatible widget hasn't been introduced all editors and publishers are just sitting on their asses waiting to turn off the lights?
No one knows what's going to happen in the future, not even people who know the difference beween RSS and CSS. Actually, I do know what will happen in the future: Tomorrow morning I'm going to walk my dog and buy a newspaper. And I'm not going to feel guilty about it.