The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The endangered smell of a morning paper fresh from the print

with 20 comments

Have you ever gotten your fingers dirty as you snatched the first copy of the next day’s morning paper from the print press? Do you remember the smell? Can you recall the mix of excitement, pride and exhaustion as you walked home in the night with a day’s work under your arm, seeing the distribution cars arriving to pick up where you left?

No door back
It’s been 18 years since I worked at a newspaper and you would think that I’d be over it by now. But there’s something in it that pulls me back – a dream fuelled by nostalgia to reenter the world I once left behind me when the children arrived and I decided that I’d better move to a safer territory. I tell myself lies about that I still could become a journalist again if I only chose to. Deep down I know I probably can’t.

Whenever I meet the reporters of today, seeing their crazy performance of multitasking, taking pictures, shooting films for the web and tweeting simultaneously as they write, always with an “for immediate publication” deadline hanging over them, I think that they’re a different kind of breed. If this lady turned up at a news desk, looking for a job, she’d be rightfully laughed off.

The door back to where I came from closed a long time ago. There is no return, not to the world that I knew. This is even clearer to me after I watched Page One: Inside the New York Times.

The future of journalism
While New York Times plays in a different league to the places where I used to work, the problems newspapers all over the world are facing are similar. Subscribers jump the ship since there are plenty of online sources where they can get the news for free. The advertisers go with the subscribers. This leaves them with no alternative but to cut down on their staff while desperately trying to figure out a new business model.

Where is journalism heading? Is there anyone in this world who is ready to pay for informative, investigating and insightful articles, pieces that reporters have put some proper work in? Or will we be left with nothing but gossip, speculations and pure entertainment, since that’s what people are prepared to pay for, and in the end it’s all just business?

Will printed newspapers disappear from the market as quickly as the mechanical typewriters did? I would like to say “no”, but maybe it’s just my heart speaking.

Turmoil and confusion
This documentary doesn’t try to make prophecies; it rather reflects the current turmoil and confusion in the business. There are no groundbreaking reveals but it gave me some easily digested food for thought and a glimpse into what’s going on. Even the flagship of all flagships is struggling and it’s inevitable but still sad to see.

If they make a follow-up in let’s say, twenty years time, will there even be a printed edition of NY Times? I sincerely hope so, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Page One: Inside the New York Times (Andrew Rossi, US, 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

May 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Page One

20 Responses

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  1. I’m actually totally cool with the idea of print newspapers going away, especially since I don’t actually read any print news anymore. But there’s a problem, and that’s the lack of monetization. The New York Times makes money and uses that money to deliver great quality journalism. They have the resources. They hire the best writers. They send journalists all over the world to really get in deep in a story. I worry that in the move to digital they won’t be able to make up all that money and the quality of their journalism and journalism in general will fall. In fact, I think it already has started falling in most corners of online journalism.

    Corey Atad

    May 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    • Yes, I definitely worry about the business model. I still subscribe for two morning papers, one local and one national to get my needs covered. But to be honest I’ve usually already gotten a lot of the news in them by other means. I still keep it up. For nostalgic reasons, as a princip, or perhaps just out of habit. It would feel strange without them.

      Jessica

      May 29, 2012 at 10:45 pm

  2. I don’t think they’ll die off entirely, but I do think they’re going to become more of a novelty, if that makes sense. I also think there’s a lot to be said about e-book versions, things like the kindle and e-reader apps.

    The future of journalism is an entirely different thing, I think there are places for both, though I do think in the digital age where getting instant is more important, though well informed editorials do still happen, at least as far as games journalism goes (though games ‘journalism’ is an entirely different beast in and of itself it seems sometimes.)

    They definitely take a back seat to entertainment, but when has serious -not- taken a backseat to entertainment? Documentaries never do as well as reality TV. Artistic movies rarely blockbuster. Moby Dick doesn’t sell as much as famous actor’s new book.

    It’s a shift, but not necessarily a bad one.

    • I would say that the shift is both for good and for bad. The age of free flowing information gives us so much access, as shown in this film, by the example of how NY Times cooperated with Wikileaks.

      We really can’t turn back the wheels and I don’t wish internet to go away. I also think journalism that isn’t mostly intended to just entertain is good for a society. But we need to find a way to finance it.

      Jessica

      May 29, 2012 at 10:47 pm

  3. I think one of the very great problems with the “big” newspapers – and then this feeds down to lesser newspapers – is that as the internet has come to prominence the political slants all papers inevitably put on events has become obvious. This is a problem when they pretend to be objective. The New York Times (and most “main” American papers) for example slant towards the left side of the American political spectrum. Therefore a whole segment of the American populace lost all interest in purchasing a product that was “batting for the other side” as it were.

    On the other hand, the press has also been seen to have a massively unhealthy impact in politics in other ways – the ongoing Leveson enquiry in the UK is one symptom of this (I tend to think the UK avoids the above problem by having a very varied set of national papers with clearly defined ideological objectives, but we probably exemplify the second).

    Both the above points can also be applied to TV journalism, with only a little modification.

    I suspect there will be two breeds of journalist going forward. On the one hand people like Michael Yon (http://www.michaelyon-online.com/) are doing first-rate journalism outside of the traditional news context. In some respects this is more of a return to journalism of a different age – a Winston Churchill in the Boer War kind of journalism. The topics of such journalists will usually be the tragedies – the famines and wars and disasters of human-kind. Those journalists moved into the orbit of newspapers in the 19th century and tv in the 20th. Now they will be moving into a more independent vein – empowered by the internet.

    The second breed of journalist will be the “citizen-reporter” – most likely reporting on domestic matters, be in local politics, sport, culture, or what have you. News-desks are already increasingly reliant on this form of news-reporter especially in moments of crisis. However, what I think will be more and more common is someone with an interest covering in depth a particular topic or investigating a particular angle. There have already been a number of incidents where non-journalists have performed some exceptional reporting (think the Dan Rather controversy in 2004 Presidential election, or Guido Fawkes UK political reporting). Again, in this context the internet is empowering.

    The news-desk I think will increasingly become a place where the work of others is filtered. In a sense Instapundit does this already for those of a certain political interest/persuasion. Howard Basham at How Appealing does it for some portions of US legal news.

    Sorry for the very lengthy post, but as an avid news-reader it is something I think about quite often these days.

    stnylan

    May 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    • Don’t apologize! You should know me by now! The longer comments, the happier innkeeper! We like it when the guests keep up the conversation while I’m serving in the bar. 🙂

      And you’ve opened a place of your own nextdoors! That’s awesome! Congratulations! I hope you’ll enjoy it. And if you don’t… well you know where you’re always welcome to hang out.

      Thanks for the tip about Michael Yon. I’ve never heard of him, need to check that out. I also think you’re on to something about the future. Reports of all sorts are produced everywhere – often for free. There are so many willing workers out there. But someone still need to help us filter it. And while I admire all the technical advancement I still have doubts that the human judgement is completely replacable there.

      Jessica

      May 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm

      • Many thanks for your encouragement 🙂 Always feel free to pop in and visit, if the fancy takes you, even if most of the posts are about a former hobby.

        stnylan

        May 30, 2012 at 8:53 pm

        • I’ve added you to my feedreader, so I’ll surely pop by. I can’t say that I’m much into Eve (even though I throw a glance at the goblin once in a while just to check that he’s alive and kicking). But you seem to mix up with other things so… I’ll be there.

          Jessica

          May 30, 2012 at 9:36 pm

  4. stnylan = Lewis Maskell by the way, I’ve signed up to WordPress since my last comment here.

    stnylan

    May 29, 2012 at 8:55 pm

  5. hmmmm I still get the Sunday edition of the LA Times. I tried to cancel but they dropped the price so low I could not say no. They even tried to get me to get the paper the other six days of the week free of charge but I took a pass. I simply don’t have the time to read the paper like that every day in addition to all the online media I consume.

    I fondly recall that we used to acutally get a morning and evening edition of the paper back when I was growing up in Massachucetts. Of course that was all pre-internets and 24 hour news shows.

    I hope they don’t do away with print newspapers all together, I like to line my garden paths with old paper to keep down weeds and add it to my compost pile.

    Nice write up Jessica, and congrats on your Lammy Nom 🙂

    sanclementejedi

    May 30, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    • Thank you for your kind words and the congrats! Not bad to have a morning and evening edition, not bad. So what do we need Internet for? 😉

      As of keeping down the weeds you need not worry. At least where I live we get tons of advertising papers we never asked for.

      Jessica

      May 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm

  6. I’ve stopped reading the newspaper for years. The only time I ever read them anymore is if I’m alone in a cafe in the morning or something like that. Just like with the music and film industry, their old way of delivering content is now obsolete. Heck even my parents who subscribed to two daily papers for over 30 years have stopped because of the internet.

    What makes it even worse is that the print media is desperately trying to cling onto the older generation of readers, and in doing so alienates a lot of its potential audience by constantly providing biased and out of touch reporting.

    I’m sure some established outlets like the New York Times can survive, but they badly need to evolve and reevaluate their business model to do so.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    May 30, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    • This made was a bit depressing to read, though I know you’re right deep down. I just have a hard time to let go of it. And I really really wish they find a way to survive. Because solid journalism IS different to blogging and tweeting and blurping out personal views… But we need to find ways to pay for it.

      Jessica

      May 30, 2012 at 11:36 pm

  7. Great post, as always. Very interesting and, most importantly, heartfelt.

    fernandorafael

    June 3, 2012 at 6:22 am

  8. I’ve read that smell is actually the sense that has the closest connection to memory. I attended an elementary school from age 5 to 9. About 10 years later I had a summer job maintaining the school. This included mowing. When I starting mowing down these short weeds they let out a strong, sweet smell. I immediately recognized it as something I used to smell when I attended the school, but that I had never thought about. All kinds of memories of my days at the school ran through my head. After that I always looked forward to mowing that section of the grounds.

    Chip

    June 4, 2012 at 4:12 am

    • It definitely is. It’s inevitable to associate to Proust’s madeleine, even though that was about taste rather than smell. Thanks for sharing that beautiful memory!

      Jessica

      June 4, 2012 at 7:52 am

  9. Really love the fact you’ve been reviewing more documentaries lately, not a lot of bloggers do so unfortunately. This documentary does show that the world is quickly changing and that people are looking for quick information. A lot of people don’t seem to want spend lots of time reading long articles. I do think that when these big bastions of investigative reporting disappear it can be very bad for the truth and changes in society. So is information overload, just look at Wikileaks, which didn’t have as much impact as the Pentagon Papers (when newspapers were the only source of information. You might find The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers an interesting documentary to watch as well (have reviewed it a while ago)

    Nostra

    June 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    • I’m glad you appreciate it. I think writing about documentaries is a bit unthankful and perhaps it keeps bloggers from writing about them. They’re not that widespread and with very few exceptions it isn’t all that likely that any of your readers have seen the documentaries in question. Very few will comment it and that is demotivating to many.

      I love good documentaries and try to mix them into my diet. The issue is always to get hold of them. On my to-watch-list is for instance Project Nim, which never came up in Swedish theatres, sadly enough.

      I recently discovered that the Swedish television shows a lot of high quality documentarys, which are available for free watching on the web for a week after it’s been shown on TV (Sweden only sadly enough). This increases my chances to watch them and it is one of the reasons why you’ve seen more documentary reviews here lately. I’ll definitely try to keep at it.

      That documentary you mention sounds interesting. Ishould try to get hold of it.

      Jessica

      June 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      • That’s true, most reviews I do on documentaries usually don’t have comments, but I know some people do appreciate them and will check them out.

        Yeah, know what you mean, documentaries are harder to watch because they aren’t as readily available. Project Nim is an interesting watch, hope you manage to catch it.

        Nostra

        June 6, 2012 at 5:07 pm


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