In the latest issue of the Atlantic Michael Hirschorn predicts that The New York Times will soon stop publishing the print edition of the newspaper, retaining instead the far more popular digital edition. He suggests this could occur as early as sometime this year.
According to Hirschorn the Times is deeply in debt and while it has several assets it could sell, such as the Boston Globe, this is not exactly the best of times to put a newspaper or much of anything of value up for sale. Given its bleak financial condition, gradually diminishing print circulation, and escalating use of its website, Hirschorn says “at some point soon—sooner than most of us think—the print edition and with it the Times as we know it, will no longer exist.”
As a long time reader of the Times, I find this inconceivable. It will mean the end of one of the main events of my day, every day, in fact, even when I’m traveling and often spend a good deal of time searching for a copy of the latest edition.
As Hirschorn puts it, the end of the print edition of the Times “will mean the end of a certain kind of civilized ritual that has defined most of our adult lives.”
It will also mean the end of the only way I really know how to read the newspaper. I don’t know about you, but I find it virtually impossible to read with any kind of care the Times website or the newly arrived digital version of the paper. That is true for almost any lengthy digital article, book, or periodical.
I am remote from the generation of the screen, far from knowing how to peer at the screen for anything but a headline or few short paragraphs. If I find something of any length on the Web, I end up printing a copy to read. That would be impossible to do each day with the Times as the number of articles I read from start to finish isn’t getting any less.
In my experience reading is a matter of marking up the text, make notes in the margin, underlining, shifting around from paragraph to paragraph, sometimes returning to an article several pages back and from time to time cutting something out of the paper. It is a matter of holding the text in my hands, staring at the photos, occasionally peering at the ads, and taking notes on my yellow pad of paper. It is also a matter of taking a break from the computer.
Reading this way on the screen is simply not possible. Yes, I can scan the headlines, read short pieces, and get the basics. But the Times is a quite a bit more than the basics. And while I know my Times is not everyone’s Times and while I am aware of the particular style and slant of the paper, it is nevertheless one that is quite congenial to me.
I along with a great many others from my generation will miss the daily arrival of the Times. So I remain ever hopeful that Hirschorn’s prediction is in the management’s view simply not an option.