Monday, November 28, 2005

Evening papers are back -- online

For those who love newspapers -- to read them, write them and rail at
them - these are somber times. ... Newspapers are one of the glories
of modern Western civilization. They have, on the whole, probably
never been better written, edited and produced than they are today.
But their future is in doubt. So, is this the twilight of printed
news? Should the scribes of instant history be hunting-and-pecking
their industry's obituary? The answer is probably no. "I've never been
a believer that print will die," said technology writer and blogger
Edward Cone of North Carolina. "I think print has a lot of advantages.
It's a useful form. It's profitable, it's disposable, and you can roll
it up and hit the dog with it." But the nation's daily newspapers are
certainly changing fast, and to understand their future it may be
useful to glance at their past. ... Morning readers tended to prefer
their news straight-faced and serious. Afternoon readers were
different. They wanted to be entertained rather than educated,
preferring news of crime, sports and local politics, spiced with
strong opinions. The afternoon papers ran many editions, updating
stories throughout the day, getting the stock market closings and the
racetrack results in the final edition. Journalism in the afternoon
flourished until after World War II, when it was weakened by changes
in demographics, technology and the American economy. ... Now the
Internet has given newspapers the chance to compete again in the
breaking-news business. For once, the written word has an advantage
over television and radio. Most office workers would find it awkward,
to say the least, to sit around watching television or listening to
the radio. But they can read. And many with access to the Web check
the news there periodically all day. ... Web editors say readers look
for stories about crime and politics, about local neighborhoods and
communities, local sports and entertainment. In other words, they're
hunting for the kind of news once found in evening papers, exactly at
the times of day that once were the edition deadlines of those papers.
In fact, newspaper Web sites increasingly have come to resemble their
vanished afternoon brethren, albeit in electronic form and loaded with
bells, whistles, blogs and podcasts.

Source: Douglas Birch, The Baltimore Sun


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