Why I Decided To Subscribe to A Dead-Tree Newspaper

IMG_4828 I finally broke down after 10 years of adulthood and subscribed to my local newspaper, The News Tribune. I ordered the weekend editions through January for $20.

Why? I hadn't regularly read the newspaper since journalism school, and that was because my professor required it at the time. I enjoyed reading the paper (The New York Times then) but was of course affected by free and easy access to online editions of every paper like the rest of the world. Not just that, but I was growing professionally in an online industry that discouraged print editions and viewed them as less valuable. That's still true. I picked up the weeklies, still do, but to pay for a dead-tree subscription was damn-near uncivilized.

I recently found a few good reasons why it finally made sense (and cents) to order the paper.

1. Community. I'm finally settled in a home and a community -- personally and professionally. I care a lot more about the quality of community life than before and the local newspaper, plus the right Twitter hashtags, provide that. Though I could still access those stories online, I also want to support the vitality of the newspaper as an institution. A dedicated news source is an inherent pillar of community. I shell well more than $20 a month at my favorite local bar for the same reasons. The newspaper subscription price is a steal in that respect.

2. Coupons. I could care less, but ever since Amanda saw an episode of Extreme Couponing, she thinks she can transform our grocery budget. I think this will soon turn my garage into a storage bin of household cleaning supplies bought in bulk, but I digress. Here's Amanda in her first couponing binge.


3. Fetch. I'd like to teach the dog to fetch the paper in the morning. That combined with the start of a tobacco pipe habit and more regular robe-wearing and I'll be well on my way to middle age.

4. Fires. Paper burns. Duh.


5. Inspiration. Long before the rise of the Internet and the democratization of information (big concept!), people bitched and moaned about editorial prejudice and the general notion that journalists and editors had too much power and authority over information. The news funnel was too small. In some ways, the Internet freed access to information. In some ways, social media reversed that freedom as people "subscribed" to the friends and sources of information that appealed to them, shackling the scope of information they exposed themselves to and creating fragmented echo chambers of opinion. I find myself guilty of that, hearing the same things from the same people.

I'm often most inspired by news I wasn't looking for or finding conflicting points of views. My lack of control over what I see in the dead-tree newspaper is the dynamic that I've been missing. I want to turn a page and not know what will be there. That's a funny thing to write as that was the only option pre-Internet. I'm willing to pay to limit my choice of news and think critically about what others think is important to publish, a rare opportunity these days.

A good example is the editorial "More partners, more news". If I hadn't seen the story in print, introducing a partnership between the News Tribune and other local papers, I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise. It wouldn't have been "Like"-worthy in my online networks, but the story mattered to me. The editorial spun the efficiencies of combining resources, eliminating reporters from multiple papers attending the same events for cost-saving. I saw through that message and realized the lack of competition and differing perspectives that the public will miss. Without the attendance of multiple reporters, quality of reporting will worsen and alternate perspectives will be non-existent. One voice. One source. No alternative. That's a disservice to the community.

I'm watching closely the negotiations between the teachers' union and Tacoma Public Schools, a hot-button issue, because the paper alerted me. Or, it was nice seeing a child recovering at one of the hospitals I work for on the front page of Saturday's paper. For all of the reasons above... OK, just #1 and #5, these things matter and justify the subscription. They justify stepping away from the multitasking temptations of the bright screen and looking at the dull print.

On a side note, I hope everyone likes the new blog layout! You know I can't go without changing the blog every year or so. This new template provides a lot more flexibility. Yes, some old links will be broken, but pretty sure that I'm the only one looking at my archives.