Uses for newspapers

Dateline: Mon 20 Jul 2009

We all know, already, that this is "the year the newspaper died," as Silicon Alley Insider (The Business Insider) phrased it in a July 4 online article.

We all know the drumroll of events, as quoted in the article by Preethi Dumpala:

"So far this year:

  • 105 newspapers have been shuttered.
  • 10,000 newspaper jobs have been lost.
  • Print ad sales fell 30% in Q1 '09.
  • 23 of the top 25 newspapers reported circulation declines between 7% and 20%"


So it's grim. So what?

Knowing that the end is nigh, other forward-thinking sites have come up with what newspapers are still good for -- the top 10 things you can do with newspapers (besides, of course, read them and become, in theory, better inforned and even, yes, educated).

Here are some ideas I've seen on web sites for what newspapes are good for -- you can add your own in comments as you see fit.

1. Lining the gerbil (guinea pig etc) cage. Nice shredded newspaper makes a lovely small-rodent bed.

2. Cleaning windows.

3. Wrapping presents. I'm a big fan of using the funnies as wrapping paper, something we started in the 1950s -- believe it.

4. Shelf lining. And then it's an added bonus when you finally clean out that drawer, and get to re-read all the news of the day, lo those many years ago....

5. Making cool hats. The Indianapolis News was a big promoter of making the pressman's hat, a boxy semi-stylish affair that could take some time and not a  little skill, but it was always a big hit with school kids, etc. You can also turn your paper into pirate hats.

OK, so those are five...I can think of more. But anyone else?



Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Well, call me a sap, but the newspaper is still where I go for information. More than anywhere else, at least in terms of frequency. And in-depth news, which is not on the picture radio.

If I need immediate news, I check the online edition, radio, or TV. But the radio-TV option has been there for 45 years. Nothing's changed in that regard.

We're seeing a generational shift in news awareness, and it has been shaped in part by lazy media. There aren't enough good reporters any more, and that is not a new trend. And it's not always in the manner you'd guess.

Example: Fred Heckman used to be news director of WIBC Radio. The town loved him. But the last 10-12 years of his job, he did a lousy job. News judgment went out the window. His attitude was: if we sent a reporter to something, it has to lead the news.

Sometimes, a reporter goes to an "event" and comes back with nothing. Because it wasn't news. How many freaking times did a fender-bender headline the WIBC news? Too damned often.

Poor news judgment, over time, is like drip-drip-drip water torture. It erodes the overall product, in a small way each day.

If that lasts for a decade or so, the news value has influenced a whole generation.

This is a subtle distinction. But it's real, and under-valued. Ask an average high school senior who the two Indiana US Senators are. (S)he won't know.

2009-07-20 14:20:36

ruthholl [Member] said:

In my time in various newsrooms, we came to identify a new "trend" in reporters: they lacked what we called "fire in the belly." They did NOT want to work past 7 p.m.; they wanted their weekends free; they did not, most of all, want to sit around in a bar after-hours and discuss every nuance of newspapering.
I think there has been a shift. Maybe it is generational.
At the same time, I have to say: those who stayed in the biz are passionate about it...the reporters I still know love what they are doing and believe they are on a mission from God or whatever. But the numbers are dwindling.
So what happened with Fred? I wonder what changed that altered his attitudes...

2009-07-20 14:43:38

Brian [unverified] said:

I think Fred passed away a few years ago. WIBC moved to FM but I don't think it will save them. Face it, the internet and all of its instant gratification for news and (mis)information junkies is about to rule the roost. Indystar will never make it on the net, they produce anything, they just parrot. The Star threatening to start charging for the website is just too funny. Those dopes just don't get it. No longer do we sit in the coffee shop sipping our brew and thumbing through the we sip our brew and clack on the keyboard. Within minutes we have checked for stories, tall tales, and news events worldwide.

2009-07-20 15:25:30

hendy [unverified] said:

1) parakeet cage lining
2) soil stoppers in leaky plant pots
3) fried fish holders
4) sterile lining for pregnant women giving labor in cabs
5) temporarily mismatched table leg adjusters in outdoor cafes.

I jones for a newspaper once in a while. Then I click something. Price of a newspaper: $1.50. Value of the newspaper after 24hrs: see #1-5.

2009-07-20 16:33:02

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Save them to someday (soon) be contributed for exhibition in a newspaper museum.

(This comment was inspired by the Joni Mitchell song with the lyric "take all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum; then you charge the people a dollar and a half just to see them").

2009-07-20 17:57:24

Old Grouch [Member] said:

"So what happened with Fred? I wonder what changed that altered his attitudes..."

What happened was, the Fairbanks family sold WIBC to Sconnix, a company that proceeded to run the operation into the ground (much as Gannett did with the Star). (In one classic blunder, Sconnix invoked its ironclad "no nepotism" policy to oust Jeff (?) Pickett because the company also employed his dad Joe - despite both of them being popular on-air personalities!) Budgets and staff were cut, and a bunch of other talented people left/were forced out. (Sound familiar?) Heckman finally got fed up and quit in 1993.

The following year, Emmis Communications bought WIBC/WNAP, and one of the first things they did was bring Heckman back. The Emmis takeover was a good thing, but many observers (including this one) were later disappointed because the company never built the operation back to what it had been when Fairbanks owned it.

As for Heckman at Emmis, it's my impression (purely speculation) that he was glad to be back on the air, but was uninterested in fighting any more battles with management, and so accempted what the limits would be. He retired in 2000.
I'd also point out that NO radio station in this market has EVER had reporting resources equivalent to that of even a small-town daily. (That doesn't mean there haven't been good, sometimes great reporters in local radio. But the typical station had one star, behind him was a pretty meagre bench.

And radio stations have always depended on the networks/wire services for their out-of-market news, and the local newspaper for setting the local agenda. It's the rare radio operation whose "original reporting" wasn't anticipated by the local ink-stained wretches.

2009-07-20 18:06:53

Joe Blow [unverified] said:

I could fill a pretty good birdcage by printing out all the blog posts that have the facts wrong. The latest being Mpozi, who did not die in 2003. This summer was the third anniversary of his death.

2009-07-21 05:58:34

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Newspapers are great for draining bacon strips. They soak up the grease.

Rolled tightly they make fireplace fire starters.

Necessary when spray painting cars, for masking areas that don't need overspray.

Rolled loosely they make a smacking noise that intimidates dogs doing something they should not (but never strike the dog with a newspaper-- or
anything else).

They remind us of the day when good writing was a skill to be
admired, and (mostly) ethical, balanced news reporting began our day.

2009-07-21 07:00:41

ruthholl [Member] said:

Joe Blow, thank you. Of course, he died the year I retired and that was 2006. I know that. This is where I praise copy editors. There is no difference in writing a blog than being on a paper -- one faces similar pressures and distractions. Just no copy editors, alas.
I will fix it now.

2009-07-21 08:33:16

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Old Grouch: you're partially right, but WIBC had or has decent Statehouse-City reporters who routinely scoop(ed) the local print and electronic reporters.

Fred may have beene coasting when he came back, but his news judgment sucked. Ruth asked what happened to him...

I think it was general malaise. In J school, they taught the News Judgment thing, but it didn't transfer to the real world very well after about 1990.

That's about the time you noticed the generational shift, Ruthie.

Another point: I've never drank, and don't generally like bars. The smoke sucks, for one thing, but I have never enjoyed rehashing the business day over other folks' cig smoke and beers. I've done it in my career to "get along" with people, but it's unpleasant. Just a thought.

Whitebeard recalls Joni well: "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got til it's gone."

Take paradise, put up a parking lot. Hell that sounds like the current zoning attitude in north indy.

2009-07-21 11:41:06

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