Saturday, March 16, 2013
The end of newspapers threatens paperboys and kidnapper props
Many people will look back at newspapers as a quaint notion from a simpler time. As news moves online, our society will lose some of our traditions and cultural touch points.
What follows is a list of some of those things going the way of the buggy whip along with print newspapers.
10 things that will disappear with print newspapers
An old newspaper joke was that multimillion-dollar corporations were putting their fate in the hands of 9-year-old boys.
Adult professional deliverers in cars have all but replaced the jobs for young paper boys and girls though.
But recently the New York Times profiled the world’s oldest paperboy, 93-year-old Newt Wallace. Since 1947, he’s walked the same paper route every week, delivering copies of the Winters Express to the residents of Winters, Calif. He’s truly among the last of a dying breed.
2. Newspaper boxes
But frankly with rising newspaper prices, those boxes haven’t been practical for a while, unless you’re a person who carries around a lot of change.
3. Newspapers as kidnapper props
article a few years back with the headline, “Report: Majority Of Newspapers Now Purchased By Kidnappers To Prove Date.” The joke being, of course, that regular people don’t buy newspapers any more.
But newspapers are still being used by kidnappers for “proof of life” props in photos. In January, an Islamic terrorist group in the Philippines released a photo of an Australian man, Warren Rodwell, they had kidnapped more than a year earlier, and he was holding a newspaper to prove the date, according to the Australian newspaper.
Less common today are ransom notes using letters cut out of the newspaper.
4. Newspapers as movie props
Newspapers also are used in many ways to advance the plot in movies. My favorite is when time travelers check the year on newspapers, such as in “Back to the Future 2” (1998) where Marty McFly checks out a futuristic USA Today in October 2015. Let’s hope it’s still around in two years.
5. Newspapers for bird cages, catching paint, etc.
Newspapers have many uses beyond delivering the news. They’re handy for art projects, such as making paper mache, and are a great substitute for painting drop clothes. You can use them to line bird cages and hamster homes. Plus, they’re great for starting fires in the fireplace or fire pit. And they’re useful for packing fragile items. Try doing that with digital news.
6. Comic strips
Comic strips are disappearing one by one from the nation’s newspapers as budgets get cut because of shrinking circulation. Online comics have cropped up, but will never be as big as newspaper comic strips were in their heyday with “Peanuts,” “Doonesbury,” “The Far Side,” “Calvin and Hobbes” and others.
Long-time comics that have ended their runs in recent years include “Annie”, “Cathy” and “Brenda Starr.”
A documentary about the dire state of the comic strip, called “Stripped,” is currently in production. It was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign.
But just as newspaper articles and ads have moved online, so have coupons. Now people print them or save them to their smartphones to use.
8. One fun use for Silly Putty
Silly Putty is something practically all kids do. It’s one of the cool uses for Silly Putty. Once copied, you can stretch the putty and distort the image. After a while the pink Silly Putty turns gray from all the newspaper ink. Fun, but yucky.
9. Getting readers to pay for news
Print newspapers have two revenue streams: advertising and circulation. Online news largely has one revenue stream: advertising. That’s not likely to change for most news organizations.
Larger newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times can get away with charging heavy users for their content. But pay walls aren’t going to work for the majority of online newspapers. There are simply too many free alternatives on the Web.
So the extinction of print newspapers could mean the end of most readers paying for news.
10. Print journalists
American Society of News Editors. Many journalists have left newspapers to work in PR or as research analysts or have gone back to school for a business or law degree or found employment in some other profession.
One former newspaper reporter, Jon Campbell, recently started brewing beer. He calls his alcoholic beverage Unemployed Reporter Porter. The label is hilarious, but painfully so. (See articles by Jim Romenesko and SF Weekly.)
There’s even a website devoted to what former newspaper reporters are doing now called NewspaperAlum.
Retired newspaper vending machines (Flickr Vending Machines pool); screenshot from “Paperboy” video game; Washington, D.C., newspaper vending machines (photo by Elvert Barnes); kidnap victim Warren Rodwell; Ransom note card from Zazzle; Still from “Proof of Life”; “Back to the Future 2” newspapers from Pop Culture Geek and Not Right About Anything; coupon photo by Flickr user sdc2027; Silly Putty from ThinkGeek; Newroom jobs graphic from Reflections of a Newsosaur; and Unemployed Reporter Porter beer by Jon Campbell.