I used to be indecisive…

…but now I'm not so sure

hidden benefits of newspapers

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Guest Blogger Mother-on-a-Mission writes about newspapers.  I have included it in my ‘post a day challenge’ –  does that mean I have cheated??

Mother-on-a-Mission lives in the country. Her mission is to perfect the art of being in two or more places at once.

The closure of the paper shop in our local town means we can no longer have papers delivered. It wasn’t that a paperboy or girl ever pushed them through the letterbox or even threw them in the approximate direction of the front door, US-style. Rather, the entire order for the area was delivered to a box on the wall by the village hall and each customer simply picked through the bundle and extracted their own publication. It may not sound very convenient but it saved a 14 or 15 mile round trip, which probably cost more in fuel than the price of the newspaper.

Sadly, it means I read fewer newspapers now than I used to. I’m sure I’m not alone. You might be lucky enough to have to don only your dressing gown and slippers to pick up your daily paper from the mat behind your front door, rather than dress in waterproofs from head to foot and trudge out in all weathers to retrieve a usually-slightly-soggy paper from a rickety wooden box. But, either way, the news you read over your toast and coffee is already out of date by the time you scan your first headline. When online versions are only a mouse-click away (or a mouse-click and a bit of a wait, in the case of our steam-powered, rural-community broadband) what benefit could printed newspapers possibly offer?

In today’s wired, online, instant society, newspapers are a tough sell. Who is going to bother stumping up for an inconvenient paper publication with an alarming tendency to slither about all over the place when you turn the page, and leave ink on your hands to boot? It’s much more convenient to read the news on your laptop, iPad or phone. That news is immediate, telling you what’s happening now rather than what happened yesterday, and unless the children have been playing on your keyboard at the same time as eating marmite toast soldiers, you can usually keep your hands clean. Then of course, there are the 24-hour news channels bringing us the news as it happens from all over the world although curiously, there often isn’t any news on these when I switch on…but that’s another blog post entirely.

Most of us expect information on the web to be free so charging for access to online newspaper content has generated plenty of comment. I’m in favour of charging, although I do like the approach some papers have taken of allowing free access to a limited number of articles over a certain period of time. The principle of newspapers making enough money to train and employ journalists of a high enough calibre to research and write accurate stories and so hold politicians and public figures to account and uncover the less savoury side of our society has to be an important part of a well-functioning democracy.  Maybe that would possible by raising revenue online through advertising alone, maybe not. I don’t know.

What I do know, however, is what someone (your host, I used to be indecisive… actually) pointed out the other day. If the dog leaves a puddle on the floor, or the roof leaks, or you spill a carton of milk, you can’t exactly spread your laptop out to mop it up. The alternative would be printing out the sports pages, the business pages, the TV section, or whichever bit of the paper you usually consign to the recycling pile first and spread those out on the floor instead. However, experience tells me that printer paper is not as absorbent as newsprint and spreading out A4 sheets is rather fiddly.

Many newspapers are a good, thoughtful read and offer a welcome break from reading on a screen. For all the recent debate about charging or not charging for online content and whether print newspapers have a future at all in a 24-hour a day society, it comes down to this. I will continue to buy print newspapers because after I’ve enjoyed reading them, they are so useful for other things. I can’t imagine the world without them.

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