The Philadelphia Inquirer has filed for bankruptcy. The newspaper I grew up with (along with The Evening Bulletin, which disappeared years ago) will continue to publish the morning news, as well as its sibling paper The Philadelphia Daily News. The bankruptcy reorganizes the paper’s debt but does not stop operations. At least that’s the theory for now.
Why is this newsworthy for my blog today? Nostalgia quite aside, this news is the latest evidence of the dramatic shift in reading habits among the general public — the internet screen replacing the broadsheet — as well as the remarkable shift in the sources for any kind of news. Seems so quaint today to think of the “morning paper” as the sole source to tell us what’s going on in the rest of the world. I have to confess that I read about 10 front pages every morning — but all online. I save “the paper” for later in the day when I’m home, but then I only read the interesting articles, opinions, and yes, the comics.
Will future generations wonder where the term “newspaper” came from as they wander around with flexible screens rolled up in their pockets, or mini-projectors no larger than a pen that can use any surface to flash something from the net? Such items are already emerging at tech shows — but we probably won’t have them in consumer hands any time soon, given this economy.
The diffusion of news sources among the incredible array of websites and broadcast media is probably good as a general matter so that no one powerful newspaper owner or publisher can “own” the news. On the other hand, the danger is that rumors run rampant every day, and everything from stock prices to political polls to terrorist threat levels seem to be at the mercy of the 24/7/365 news mania.
The winners in this current shakeout between print and digital will be those media companies who learn to adapt more quickly. The Washington Post has just had a shakeup in its online division and other great newspapers are aligning print and media efforts more closely. We are all the beneficiaries when it’s done right. It’s 6 am in California where I’m writing this with my morning coffee after having browsed the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, and yes, the Philadelphia Inquirer. I could not have done that ten years ago. Now I’m off to see what the pundits are saying at slate.com, drudgereport and politico… and I’ll still make my 7 am meeting! Try doing THAT with print!!