The world's first "musical obit" for snailpapers?
by Dan Bloom
I've been working in and around newspapers for most of my life,
beginning as a newspaper delivery boy in western Massachusetts in the
1950s. During my teenage years, the massive edition of the Sunday New
York Times would arrive at the doorstep with a welcome thud, and I'd
spend the rest of the morning devouring every section of the paper,
lying on the carpet of the living room.
This was a good 40 years, of course, before the Internet shook up my
world, and maybe your world, too. You see, this print newspaper that
you are holding in your hands right now is headed for the garbage heap
of history by 2025, maybe sooner. Well, that's what the doomsayers say
as the Digital Age stands up proud with its
Kindles and state-of-the-art iPhone e-reading apps and says good
riddance to paper.
But wait a minute, I want to say, hold your horses! Print newspapers
are not dead
yet, and they don't have to die. As the American writer and newspaper
publisher Dave Eggers has said, there's no reason that print
newspapers and online news sites cannot co-exist together.
I love newspapers, this thing you are holding in your hand right now
as you read down the page.
[Note to online readers of the Projo website: lean in close to the
screen on this one because I want to make this very clear: I love
digital newspapers, too.]
Now the reason I love print newspapers so much is because, yes, of
course, I grew
up with them. Early life in Springfield, college years in Boston.
For the young generation today growing up with Facebook and Twitter
and YouTube, it's a totally different story, and I understand that
I also have a Facebook page and a twitter account, so I am not against
pixels or E Ink or screengrabs. I just love "snailpapers", that's all,
and I use that word as a term of endearment, as you will see.
Recently, I wrote a novelty song about newspapers called "I Just Can't
Live (Without My Daily Snailpaper)". You can find it on YouTube.
The reviews have been mixed. First the good news.
Diana McClellan, the retired Washington DC gossip columnist who rose to fame
at the now-defunct Washington Star -- defunct, in fact, since 1981 (it
had a good 128-year run, beginning in 1852, and then its print run
ended) -- listened to the video and told me: "This is the world's
first musical obit for newspapers!"
Carl Bernstein's in the song, in the second verse (along with Bob
Woodward. and Ben Bradlee, their boss during the Watergate days), and
after he listened to it, he told me in a brief email about a week
later: "Your newspaper love song is delightful, the message is right
and your voice is on target."
Full disclosure: the dude singing the song is not me. I hired a
retired dentist in Texas named J. Gale Kilgore to record the song in
his home studio and a video firm to make the scrolling lyrics video.
Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn, publisher and editor of the online news site
"Hollywood Today (and the grandson of Al Jolson, by the way)," said
the lyrics resonated with him. "I've been publisher or editor of 12
newspapers, about half of them print newspapers and half of them
online news site. I wish all were print papers, I've got ink in my
veins. However, online is only way to stay alive now."
But not everyone agrees with the song's intent. Every song has its critics.
I asked a young woman in Australia, screen name Bella Kyee, who I met
by chance on Facebook, if she reads any newspapers Down Under and if
had any advice on how to help the song go viral on the Internet. She
replied in a succinct one-line note, which I reproduce here in its
entirety, verbatim: "Noooo!.... I don't do newspapers .....HAHAHA!"
Will print newspapers survive the current onslaught of the Digital
Age? I don't know the answer, but I sure hope they do.
I am not anti-Internet and I am not a Luddite, all humor in my song
aside. I embrace
digital as much as I embrace paper and print. E Ink is amazing. The
blogosphere lights up my life 24/7. I can't imagine a world without
computers or screens or iPods or iPads, and while it's possible that
the coming roll-out of Apple's iPad will put several more nails in the
coffin of print newspapers, as one pundit recently opined, I still
want to stand up for newspapers and say: "Long may they live!"
So what is the purpose of my song? Hopefully, it will prod newsroom
people and news consumers and Brown and Tufts professors to reflect on
just where the future of good journalism lies. Like Dave Eggers, I
feel it lies in both paper and on screens.
As for the term "snailpapers" that I coined for the song, Paul Gillin
of the Newspaper Death Watch blog said it well: "[Bloom] thinks maybe
if newspapers poked more fun at themselves instead of getting all
righteously indignant about
new media, they would generate more sympathy."
It's true, print newspapers arrive on our doorsteps in the morning
with news that is already 12 hours old. That's a snailpaper, by
definition. Snailmail, snailpapers.
But as the song says, "I just can't live without my daily snailpaper!"
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