Times they are a'changin'

flatline

The  past and the future collided in the Rocky Mountain foothills yesterday. Luckily my husband, the news hound that he is, was at the front lines. He’s in Denver for a few days, one of which is for the purpose of delivering a presentation on New Media. Upon arrival at his speaking engagement he encountered an Old Media frenzy. Much as he would like to think it was paparazzi, it had nothing to do with him.

It had everything do with the closing of the Rocky Mountain News today. On the same day he addressed photographers and journalists on how to reinvent themselves and retool their skills for the emerging world of new media, members of the old media were packing their boxes.

He knew about the Rocky Mountain News before he arrived in Colorado because he read it on Twitter. He knew because journalists were Tweeting the information before their old-fashioned media employer could get the word out through traditional channels. 

What a convenient — albeit painful — backdrop for his presentation. 

As for all the newly unemployed writers, editors, copy editors, designers, photographers, sales representatives, classified advertising clerks, news delivery workers, truck drivers, composing room workers, graphic artists,circulation managers and many others, it was a day of heartbreak. 

I had lunch today with my group of gal pals, all of us unemployed newspaper folks. We talked of the seemingly endless parade of newspaper funerals. We talked of our careers and dreams going up in flames.

I’m thinking, I’ll shed a few tears for the Rocky Mountain News and the others to follow. Bury the dead.

Times are a’ changin.’ Newspapers and many other industries are going down in flames. What great stories we’ll tell our grandchildren of how we rose out of those ashes and reinvented our lives.

Coffee on the keyboard

oldway

These are times of great change.

Today I learned another element of daily living soon will cease to exist in its current format.   Beginning next Spring, Detroit’s two downtown dailies will reduce home delivery to three days a week. Those who wish to read the newspaper seven days a week will have to log on to the Internet. The news in some printed format will continue to be published for distribution in sales boxes and at newsstands. 

This bold move, said to be the first of its kind in the country, is the result of rising fuel and print costs and declining ad revenue. It also aims to move the newspaper business into the future, embracing new models of information dissemination.

While this may seem a logical step to many if not most readers who do their information gathering online anyhow, for those of us *ahem* of a certain age, the tactile experience of the morning newspaper will be a huge loss. I’m not sure how this works for folks without Internet access or computers. 

My morning routine consists of firing up the coffee maker, filling the cat’s dishes with food, opening the front door and reaching down to grab the newspaper encased in a plastic sleeve. For as long as I can remember, everywhere I have lived, there always has been a folded paper on my doorstep in the morning. Always.

delivery

I spread open the paper on the table and inhale deeply as the pages release their ink-scented smell of fresh news.  I scan the headlines.  I make breakfast and pour a cup of coffee.

The crisp newsprint crackles in my hands as I leaf through the sections, working my way from the  news, editorials, letters to the editor and features all the way to the comics.  (Yes, I read the comics.) The table arrangement is as follows: newspaper on the left, breakfast center and coffee to the right.
By the time I’ve drained the last cup of coffee, I’ve worked my way through the pages. I rise to deposit the bundle in the recycling bin and then wash the ink from my hands. It’s been a lifetime ritual.
I’m no stranger to the Internet (If you are reading this, then it’s obvious.) and I’m looking forward to being a part of the new media movement. 
However, there are a few unresolved issues this plan didn’t consider:

  • Almost any well-read newspaper will sport a coffee ring or pages glued together with peanut butter or jelly or syrup. Most computer keyboards don’t take too kindly to blasts of hot coffee and showers of doughnut crumbs. Frankly, it’s a little awkward to eat Cheerios and maneuver the laptop keyboard. It can be done, but the hazards are far greater.
  • newway

  • Will I have to download and print the daily paper to place under the cat’s litter box? What about bird cages, what will line their floors? Obviously some household tasks will become more labor intensive.
  • The concept of the newspaper clipping attached to the refrigerator with a magnet now seems as outdated as waiting for the ice man to make a delivery.
  • I was going to mention how awkward it will be to balance a computer on your lap and read the news while riding a bus or train, but the husband says this is done already: Users of Blackberries and I-phones have been doing this for some time. Like I said ….. I’m of a certain age.
  • Without a weeks’ worth of newspapers, how on earth will I hide all those wine bottles in my recycling bin?

Final edition

Last night the husband and I joined a small group of writers, editors and photographers for a round of drinks at our local watering hole. After hoisting our mugs and toasting our friendship and better days ahead, we downed a bitter swig of reality.

On Dec. 1 our 106-year old enterprise will cease to exist. We couldn’t call it a death. More like pulling the plug on a ventilator. Still.

Moments earlier we had toured the shell of a once-bustling building. What was once filled with busy workers doing their part to get a paper on the street every day is now populated only with empty desks and packed boxes.

Husband and I have a lot of memories embedded in this place. It was our home away from home, our life.  It was that way for all who worked there. We were an extended family and this felt like a funeral for a dear friend.

As we  drank and ate and talked, we wondered what to do with the rest of our lives, since most present were headed for the unemployment line. We talked about how to update our analog careers to a digital world. Most of us are middle age and this is all we’ve done. Time to reinvent ourselves. We all knew it was coming, but it is quite another thing to stand at the edge of the grave as the casket is being lowered.

Anyone interested in what’s going on in the news industry can read more here: