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Smaller than it looks on the inside:( - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Smaller than it looks on the inside:(
I died a little yesterday.  So did a lot of friends, to varying extents.

Over 35 years ago, on a third-floor wall of a rickety old building in downtown Ithaca, New York, hung one clock and three signs:

This was, then, the newsroom of The Cornell Daily Sun- Ithaca's Only Morning Newspaper, also then.  It hasn't been that for years- the Ithaca Journal started on a morning schedule long ago- but The Sun remained one of the most trusted, esteemed, and, yes, daily of newspapers in Central New York.

Let's read the headstones on that wall. Working from the bottom right:  The cut-off one, I think, said, "When we tell people, they know it really happened."

The blurry one, probably the most relevant to me still, reads, "Never believe a rumor until it's officially denied."

Above both, the one you can read quite clearly- which served as a constant reminder from everyone from the lowest trainee to the managing editor: this was not the paper you worked on in high school.  An entire community of readers depended on you doing your job, doing it right, doing it on time, and doing it five times a week.

The clock, alas, has now stopped. 


As with the arrival of much bad news, this came (a) during a weekend and (b) with plenty of lipstick on the pig.  The email arrived, headed "A New Direction For The Cornell Daily Sun."

1-36-TBR 3 col.  I can probably still count the headline if I had a couple of drinks.

The first sentence of the message itself mentioned the "Daily Not a Weekly" sign, which still hangs in their much nicer newer digs.  Soon as I saw that, I knew it was a death notice- and that only the funeral arrangements needed to be announced.

I read on.

Digital is the word. It's the word that you heard. It's got a groove, it's got a meaning. 

The paper's losing money on paper.

Online's better for breaking news.

And so and so and so and so and so and so. 

Bottom line- starting in the fall, The Sun will only rise in its present form on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.  The other two, and on the weekends as now, you'll be directed to the website.  Which, so far, is not paywalled.

In fairness, it's not a death- it's only mostly dead.  It's a continuation of a much slower death spiral  which began some years back when The Sun stopped charging for its print editions.  Once you remove the price tag from your product, you instantly diminish its perceived value.  When it became a paperbox freebie like the Ithaca Times or the Your Town Here Pennysaver, your readers lose the incentive to care as much.  It doesn't diminish the journalism in and of itself; alt-weeklies, including the Ithaca Times, do as good and sometimes better of a job covering stories outside the mainstream.  But it's a step- one that gets your readers out of a habit.  Oh, that thing- I'll read it later. Meh- it's free.

Now the remaining newspaper readers will have their habit-at defoliated again.  The Cornell Daily Sun will join the ranks of the UB Spectrum in publishing three times a week.  I read that campus newspaper regularly, triweekly, for three years; they didn't do a bad job on that schedule, and from the look of their online journalism they're still doing pretty well.  But they would never be mistaken for even Amherst's Only Morning Newspaper. They never covered the surrounding community, its politics, its scandals or its cultural life the way The Sun did.

Yes, "did."  I do not see the same dedication of resources, or requiting of reader interest in the product, after it becomes an Anytime Online experience.  Because once you abandon a news cycle, however artificial it may be in our short-attention-span universe, you become something other than what you were.  Your readers will not know to pick up their front page first thing in the morning and see how the news fits. Rather, those replacement pageviews will change from hour to hour, and I have to believe it will be influenced by traffic to the site.  That's just one step away from the advertising department dictating placement- something that was unthinkable in 1880 and even 1980.

It may be inevitable- but there's only one place to go from here, and that's elimination of the newsprint altogether.  Until we get the benefits of a paperless society, and preferably flyin' cars, I'm not ready to make that change.

1 comment or Leave a comment
liddle_oldman From: liddle_oldman Date: May 11th, 2016 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, poot.

Our paper has been getting smaller and thinner for years...
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