Print publications, as you are surely aware, are in big trouble. The other day Newsweek announced it will publish its last print edition in December. In Detroit, the two major dailies cut home delivery to three days a week. The Star-Tribune in Minneapolis filed for bankruptcy. The Boston Globe trimmed its newsroom staff by 12%, and I’m not talking about the sideburns.
The Globe’s Alex Beam, now on a leave of absence while he writes a book on the Mormon Church, was way ahead of the game, doing journalistic introspection on the subject back in 2009. He was like William Shatner in the Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” the only passenger who could see the gremlin out on the wing of the plummeting plane. (Full disclosure, as serious journo-heads like to indulge in: The mascot of my grade school basketball team was the Gremlins.)
You, of course, sitting there in front of the computer, are part of the problem. You’ve apparently decided that you’re tired of reading the same Globe story about tattooed professional women three times in the past eighteen months, in each case with fewer sources or statistics than before. Funny, the female accountants, lawyers and MBAs I meet tend not to have “Oakridge Road, Wellesley MA 02481″ scrawled on their necks, a reminder of “where they came from” as one NBA player said of his return-address neck tat the other day.
Instead, you get your news on-line, where you can always click on a highlighted link and watch two guys dropping candy into Diet Coke bottles when you get bored with the two-civic leader thumbsuckers that the Globe likes to run on its op-ed page.
I’ve been writing for newspapers and later magazines off and on–mostly off–since high school, when a cracked vertebra tragically brought my career as tight end-middle linebacker to a premature conclusion. I wrote for free back then so to me, writing on the internet is like coming home for Christmas.
But I can’t imagine a world without print. There are some places where you just can’t go–at least not yet–with a laptop. This week I got a haircut and was trying to imagine what a normal colloquy with my barber would be like if newspapers and magazines ceased to exist:
BARBER: Canna you tilta your heada justa little?
ME: Sorry, I was doing a site search for “lacrosse” and “dreadlocks” and “Tom Ryan” and “Boston Blazers.”
BARBER: Why donta you justa reada the sportsa page or Sportsa Illustrateda? Thatta way I don’ta get little hairs in your computer when I blow dry.
ME: Enzo–print–it dies.
BARBER: Oh–too bad. You want gel on that?
But I for one am not going to stand idly by while a way of life comes to an end. What follows is my guerilla plan to save print through hand-to-hand combat that you, dear reader, can you join in anytime you want.
Buy two copies, throw one away. During the first Reagan administration humorist Roy Blount, Jr. suggested that we reduce the national debt by buying postage stamps and throwing them away. Maybe, just maybe, if writers bought two copies of every newspaper or magazine they wanted and threw one away, we could save print. Of course Blount’s plan didn’t work, but that was before there was the internet to spread the word. If you wanted to read Blount back then you had to buy Esquire, or one of his books. Not any more. Now you just log on to the internet, type his name into your search engine and . . . never mind.
Pets. Pets are one of the key demographics that publishers neglected when advertising revenues were strong and things didn’t look so grim. Try lining your parakeet’s cage with a laptop, or house-breaking your Portugese Water Dog using a Kindle, Amazon’s wireless reading device–it’s a mess! You’ll be begging the nice telemarketer for The New York Times for a two-week free home delivery trial the next time she calls.
Diminished civility. Next time somebody at the soup ‘n salad place where you eat lunch asks if he can borrow your paper when you’re through with it, just say no. As you make your way out of your commuter train in the morning, pick up the discarded papers that other riders have left behind and throw them away.
If somebody complains, tell them if they want to read for free they can buy a laptop, which is way more expensive.