Newspaper editors are waking up to something even the half-bright ones feared at the dawn of the Web — it worked. Too well. We got lots of new readers, but they’re readers who don’t think they should pay a dime for it.
(Here’s a fairly depressing story about this, if you’re interested.)
But you know what? Here’s an old fuddy-duddy talking, but there is something you miss when you read a paper online: Context. Juxtaposition. Today, for instance, I was reading this wrenching New York Times story on educational chaos in Kenya, in the dead-tree version, which we splurge on with home delivery every Sunday. I was having the expected reactions — What did these people do to deserve this? There is no God — when I came across this passage:
the moment of grace was shattered when the teacher in charge, Andrew Ngundi, ordered all children not wearing uniforms to come stand before the rest of the school. As part of its free education initiative, the government prohibited the expulsion of students who cannot afford uniforms – required for students in many African countries – but the new rule has not stopped administrators from pressuring poor children to get them.
“How come you’re sitting there and you still don’t have a uniform,” Mr. Ngundi said sharply, pointing at a boy who was frozen in place.
Slowly, barefoot children in torn, filthy T-shirts and hand-me-down dresses with broken zippers separated themselves from students neatly dressed in orange shirts and green shorts or skirts.
But Selina Malungu, a fatherless 8-year-old, stood before all her classmates in a grimy, red party dress adorned with torn lace and gay little bears climbing trees. It was her only outfit. The other children mock her for looking like a street urchin, she said.
I actually had to look away for a moment. On the opposite page? A Nordstrom’s ad for fall’s must-have boots. Jesus freakin’ Mary and Joseph, but I turned to the sports section. Some things are just too raw for Sunday morning. I’ll finish it tomorrow.
What a weekend. And it’s only half over, which seems strange, because I worked the extra-extra-early shift Saturday. Starting time: 4 a.m. I kid you not. I was home at noon, which should feel as though the weekend is still young, but it doesn’t. You just feel jet-lagged and spacey and crazy. I ate an egg sandwich and took a nap — oh, tell me you wouldn’t — and woke up to watch Michigan outfox the Boilermakers, then finally got around to watching “Fahrenheit 9/11” on video. Verdict: Eh. I think I’ve finally reached my limit. If the election were held tomorrow, I’d shout huzzah and look forward to getting back to normal, whatever that is. I’m tired of scowling at my neighbors’ yard signs and being surly all the time. Let’s get it over with.
That said, I found this amusing.
Our latest guppy is named Sunny, but I’m thinking we should change it to Bill. As in: Clinton. He’s the world’s biggest horndog. He hassled the other male to death, chasing him around and nipping at his tail until one day we found him bottoms-up, out of the fight for good. Now Sunny’s obviously putting the blocks to both remaining females, and they’re both bulging in a suspicious fashion. Last month one of them had seven babies, all of which are surviving and growing, and right before our eyes our tank is becoming positively … Mormon. One male, two females, seven little’uns with more probably on the way and four teeny catfish prowling the bottom, cleaning everything up. (I don’t know who their human equivalent is in this metaphor.) I don’t know what we’re going to do when the next crop of babies comes along — call Henry Huggins for help, I guess.
Update: Three catfish. Alan just euthanized an ailing one. RIP.
vince said on October 24, 2004 at 10:47 pm
Too many guppies? Time to get a half beak! They can look like mini barracudas and will gobble those guppies in no time!
By the way, leave it to PBS to provide interactive, simulated guppy sex – and make it educational too:
Mary said on October 25, 2004 at 12:28 am
I’m going with the wolves’candidate.
Bob said on October 25, 2004 at 10:13 am
For me, reading the news from a monitor screen can’t take the place of spreading a newspaper on the table and perusing it while I enjoy my morning coffee. Not ever.
Still, I suppose it’s better that people get their understanding of current events from an online version of the paper than that they get it from Leno, Letterman, and other entertainers who will do anything for a laugh, without any sense of personal responsibility to objectivity.
Unfortunately, the people who choose to scan topics at a high level on their monitor, for free, don’t do anything to offset costs or generate profits for the publishers, and that penalizes those of us who prefer the broader content of a printed newspaper.
Maureen said on October 25, 2004 at 10:41 pm
I can read an online account addressing the fallout from American “imperialism” while looking out my office window at the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan docked here in San Diego. I can scan a headline on my Blackberry dealing with third world famine while eating a $40 lunch.
I am no Harold “Print is dead” Ramis, but ironic juxtaposition is hardly the strongest selling point of printed media. Life Itself provides plenty of that, for free.