Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Last Rites for Seattle Post-Intelligencer in Hard Print

We can still read it online, but today Washington state residents saw the last hard-print edition of the Seattle Post Intelligencer grace their doorsteps. It's one of many newspapers saying good-bye to the brick and mortar world.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the region's pioneer newspaper and the city's oldest continually operating business, a newspaper that both shaped and was shaped by the community it covered, prints its last edition Tuesday -- nearly a century and a half after its forebear first rolled off a hand-cranked Ramage press promising to be "the best and cheapest promulgator of all sorts of useful information." (PI)
Watching the video, interviews with its reporters and staff discussing what they'll miss about "The PI," you see Seattle is losing more than hard print delivered to its residents.

New Jersey journalism educator, Prof. Kim Pearson, who writes at her own blog and at BlogHer and elsewhere, has been examining the topic of dying hard newsprint for a while now, and I've been reading those posts. Here's a list of the last three:After reading her most recent post in which she examines reactions to Clay Shirky's commentary on the death of hard print, I shared my sadness and a little guilt about watching hard print die as you can see in my comment below:
I have a confession to make. It pains me as a lover of books and a person who grew up thinking journalism was a noble profession--I mean someone who's published a weekly paper and actually would sniff the finished product, loving its scent and feel, accepting that I may have been born with ink in my veins--that I don't pick up hard print as much anymore.

My dad gets The Times Picayune delivered each day, but I go online to read news. Earlier this year I got a baby come back letter from The New York Times and felt like I'd been cheating on a lover.

My daughter recently received her Kindle2 in the mail, and already I'm eyeying my large collection of hard print books thinking that I need to get rid of the ones I've read but don't love and the ones I'll never read, buy an electronic reader or start uploading books to a PDA.

I'll have a few book shelves reserved for hard-to-find titles and classics, perhaps on the coffee table some magazines that make far better eye-candy in hard print, but other than that--down with the clutter.

Why is it I feel guilty about this like I'm burning Bibles or swearing in church? (V. Parlant comment at BlogHer)
Another blogger/journalist who talks about the changing of the guard in journalism is Charlotte Anne Lucas. You can read her blog at this link.

Now I'm watching the PI video and tearing up. I can be such a baby sometimes.


le0pard13 said...

Yes, watching the death of the newsprint is a very sad thing. How many historical events have been first documented via newspaper front pages? Think web pages are going to have the same effect? My wife still maintains the practice of gathering various newspapers on specific days and presenting them to family/friends as keepsakes for the birth of their children. Don't know how long that will last. And, I also lament how journalism continues to devolve--for which I blame corporate media conglomeration.

A pair of book bloggers I regularly visit, Jen's Book Thoughts and The Drowning Machine have had some posts re: e-books and the Kindle. I believe they're beliefs are something along the line of prying books off of their cold dead fingers (or something like that). Can't say that I blamed them. Just because they aren't digital doesn't make them a bad thing.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Vérité Parlant,

A while back I wrote a post entitled Where Will Technology Take Us? In it I discuss how mobility and portability are now the focus of emerging technology.

This focus shifts society from a "document-based warehouse" of information to a digital footprint. To some it may seem obvious to say that, "technology is shifting existing paradigms" but the fact is we move incrementally further each day from established methods and norms.

Twenty years ago, no one would have imagined the current changes that exist today. We've migrated from a hardcopy to books on tape and now we're digitizing media.

The cost to print now overrides the value of a publication to its audience.


Vérité Parlant said...

Le0, I used to say the same thing as those other bloggers you mention, and for some books, they will have to pry them from my cold dead fingers. :-)

U, I'll have to drop by and read that post. In the meantime, you may enjoy Robin Sloan's EPIC.

msladyDeborah said...


I am into reading. It is great to have choices about how we can read books. I am definitely a big audio book fan. I like to listen while doing housework or as an alternative to television programs.

But none of those gadgets will replace my hometown library. We have a kick ass library system in Columbus. Our library has a reputation of being all that and a bag of chips. I cannot imagine what it would be like not to go to the library. I live ten minutes away from my branch and I go there at least twice a week. That is an experience that technology cannot duplicate.

What bothers me about the end of hard copy publications is the void it creates for people who do not have internet access or just want to sit and read the paper. What is their alternative?

I am not a big fan of my home town newspaper. It is a true fish wrap rag in my personal opinion. I read it on line when the need arises.

Vérité Parlant said...

Deborah: On the Seattle P-I video there's a letter from an elderly woman who says she doesn't have the Internet. I think for some people the loss of hard print papers will be a personal kind of hurt.

One day I think hard print books will be the luxury of the wealthy and the prize of the literature addict. People who decide to keep a hard print library will be seen as quirky like the nerds who still have the first apple computer in their homes but also the latest one.

Perhaps public libraries will have a collection of hard-to-find books, but may otherwise become places you go to look at books on screens.

As a result, will we end up with a whole new kind of illiterate, kids who've never held a book in their hands and can only read info. in short burst, the equivalent of poorly written text messages or Twitter blurbs?

le0pard13 said...

As a result, will we end up with a whole new kind of illiterate, kids who've never held a book in their hands and can only read info. in short burst, the equivalent of poorly written text messages or Twitter blurbs?

I marvel at those that can write and use language with competence to get their points or opinions across eloquently. And, I cringe at many things I read across the Internet due to a lack of that same skill set (I'll include myself in that statement because I wish I could write better).

I agree with you VP. My favorite comment recently (which may relate to your point) came from reader of a new iPod Shuffle review which managed to misapply a particular word:

"Re: Apple unveils new iPod shuffle
earphone chord?

i doubt it.

you probably meant "cord"

proofreaders all over cry into their ramen noodle cups as they await the end of their unemployment benefits."

Truer words have never been spoken...

@msladydeborah: the Buckeye State must have a great library system. The book bloggers I mentioned in my earlier comment also live there and epouse the same. I wish my state could match it :-).

Unknown said...

I have not made the switch from actual books to a kindle but I must admit I have never liked reading newspapers. I enjoying reading news and information online but I still love good old fashioned books. I love the feel of a book in my hands. I hope that books never become obsolete.

Anonymous said...

I think I'll probably get a Kindle next year - hopefully after a price drop. Right now I've got a pile of books I've bought to read this year, so I might as well get through those.

I must say, though, I'm completely used to reading online, and I read all my news online. So it's difficult to care when I hear that newspapers are stopping print. Seems like a smart move to me.

Vérité Parlant said...

Liz: Me too. I just bought about 8 books, so I'll be reading those first before I invest in an electronic reader. I love books, but can't get around that moving to digital makes sense for sake of lack of clutter and environmental issues.

Renee: You're not alone in no interest in newspapers. People forget that newspapers were losing readers before they rise of the Net.