Decades ago I marveled at how horrible the San Francisco Chronicle was. For such a major city that claimed to be sophisticated and cosmopolitan, its paper of record was only worthy for lining the pet cages. The paper was thin and what reporting there was seemed to come from the wire services.
Little did I know that the Chronicle was actually ahead of its time. The Sacramento Bee has spent the last few years becoming a shell of its former self. It's as though there isn't any news for three or four days a week and they just go through the motions. The paper gets thinner every few months. I marvel these days at the dearth of classifieds. What used to take up more than one section, now is tucked away in a couple of pages at the back of another section of the paper.
I had hope that the Bee was unusual in this respect. Until this past week and our vacation down south. The Orange County Register? Even worse.
With rare exceptions -- the L.A. Times, N.Y. Times, and a few others -- the daily newspaper is dying a slow, painful death.
It's too bad. Yes, the internet provides a vast warehouse of information. Websites and blogs and feeds that can bury you in information about every single subject of interest. I can't deny it. I spend an inordinate amount of time on-line, reading my favorite websites.
Sites like Elk Grove Patch serve a valuable function -- providing a focus on local news, people, and events -- that the daily newspapers never really offered.
However, daily newspapers offered a package of information on a range of news topics that I have yet to see a website come close to. Even the websites now run by the newspapers. There is something about how websites are organized that, to me at least, just isn't as user-friendly as a newspaper. One of my favorite activities of the day is to get the newspaper from the porch and read it as the day begins.
The same thing is happening to news magazines. My almost 30-year subscription to Newsweek is becoming more and more pointless as the magazine shrivels.
Does anybody read the newspaper anymore? Is there any point to their continuing in existence if there's so little of substance in them anymore?