Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meaningless Milestones: I’m Five

Yesterday I realized with some amazement that this website has been up and running for five years. In that time the site has directly and indirectly led to interesting projects and lasting friendships. I may not post as frequently as I once did, but rest assured I have no intention of stopping now.

And while we’re on the subject of milestones ...

Miscellaneous: Gray Lady Down

For the first time in I can’t remember how long, I did not have the New York Times delivered to my door this morning. I finally canceled my subscription after months of deliberation. It figures that right after making the call I saw State of Play, with its closing sequence of a paper going to press guaranteed to put a lump in the throat of anyone who ever got “newsprint on their hands.” It was like going to a dog show after putting down Old Yeller. I expected the audience to “J’accuse!” me en masse.

What finally made me pull the trigger? Several things.

The paper is smaller. In every physical sense – font size, page width, page count. That takes a psychological toll.

The peculiar phenomenon of news osmosis. I’d flip through the paper over breakfast. Quick read of the op-ed pages, a glance at sports. By the time I returned to the paper in the afternoon I’d have absorbed much of its contents elsewhere. Through the Times’ Twitter feed, or its website, or on various blogs. And I didn’t need a moist towelette when I was done.

The paper is dumber. A front page article on novelty books spun off from blogs? Chunky male movie stars? And it’s still better than the local rag.

The cost. Running the numbers pushed me over the edge. For the price of a one-year daily subscription to the Times, I can buy an Amazon Kindle, the attractive leather case, and an electronic subscription to the paper. Throw in access to the Times crosswords for Rosemarie and I’d still have enough left over to load up said Kindle with a few books on how the newspaper business as we know it is dying.

Why did I hesitate? Because I look at enough screens as it is. Because there are few pleasures as civilized as strolling to the coffee shop with the paper under your arm. But mainly because I still associate reading the newspaper with the mysterious world of adulthood. I remember watching grown-ups file onto the subway, papers at the ready for the long ride in. I remember my father coming home from work at the airport having collected all the newspapers left behind by travelers, from Chicago, Los Angeles, London, the bundle under his arm thick enough to be useful in an interrogation room. I remember him paging through those newspapers for the rest of the evening.

This morning I fired up my laptop, opened the today’s paper section of the Times website, and read the articles that interested me while I watched the Mets game. It took a third of the time it usually takes to conquer the Sunday edition. No wet naps required.

It felt strange. But I’ll get used to it. And when a holdout like me can put his romanticism behind him, the industry is in serious trouble.

Miscellaneous: Link

How ‘bout one for old Times’ sake? NYC and Pelham 123, then and now.