Sunday, January 15, 2023

The Death of Print: The NYT

It is getting harder and harder to read print.  Is this because we are so used to screens, or because they changed print?

We were getting ice for the reception at Goodyear.  It went well - a great show, well attended, and everyone had a good time.  Sold some pottery and paintings, too!

Anyway, they had one issue left of the New York Times Sunday Edition ($6!!) and Mark said, "Let's get it!" so we did.  I figured if nothing else, we could use the newspaper to wrap fish, clean windows, or use in the pottery studio.  We were not disappointed on that level.

Didn't have a chance to look at it on Sunday, what with the reception and all.  But I was able to glance at the NYT Review of Books and, well, I want my $6 back.   The cover of the "magazine" (awfully thin these days) shows a weird graphic (above) which talks about a novel (not named on the cover) that was recently made into a movie.  Intrigued, I went to look inside.  What page?  You'd think they'd say that on the cover, but like The National Enquirer, they want you to thumb through the whole thing and read all the ads.  No matter - table of contents, right?  Good luck with that - because the "teaser" on the cover has little to do with what is on the table of contents.  So we have to thumb through the "magazine" page by page (and it was apparently jammed in the folding machine, so each page tears as you turn it) until I found the article.

Ugh.  The thing is in 4-point type like the back of a lease agreement or the ToS for a Cable company.  Not only that, it is left-justified which is just eye-cancer to me.  So I have to remove my bifocals just to read the damn thing.  What is the book about?  Beats me.  Apparently it came out in 1985 and was recently made into a movie.  But the author of the article wants to concentrate on the weird language used in the book, rather than talk about themes or - as the teaser promised - how it is relevant to post-pandemic America.

Consider this tidbit from the article:

The book’s attention to the “unlocatable roar” of our age also plays out in how the characters react to events in which language both identifies and obscures what is happening. When a plane starts to hurtle to earth, the pilot on the intercom blurts: “We’re falling out of the sky! We’re going down! We’re a silver gleaming death machine!” A plane crashing becomes a machine of death, but DeLillo’s insertion of “silver gleaming” is unexpected, ridiculous, what makes it so funny.
Really?  Right there made me realize that I don't want to read this book, see the movie, or read any more articles like that.  Airline pilots do not go on "the intercom" to announce a crash - usually they are too busy trying to save the plane. In fact, if you listen to actual cockpit recordings or ATC chatter, you realize how professional and calm pilots are in a crises - there is no time for hysterics.

Silver gleaming death machine?  That just takes me out of the moment.  To get into any movie or book, you have to suspend disbelief - you have to accept the made-up story written by an author, even though isn't something that actually happened.  A good author can get you to do this - to care about the characters they created, until you think of them as real people - friends almost.  A good director and screenwriter can do the same thing with a movie - take a ridiculous premise and make it seem real, or at least get you to go along with it for 90 minutes or so.

By the way, the easiest way to circumvent  the New York Times paywall is to have a slow internet connection and just halt the loading once the article loads and before the paywall does.  Sites like "12 foot ladder" are blocked on the NYT site.

I will go through the rest of the paper, no doubt the crossword will be challenging - or did they get rid of that in favor of "Wordle" instead?   I guess the next step is to replace all that with "The Jumble!" and just cut to the chase.  And yes, they are still on their "New York Times Gloom" kick, with dark foreboding photos of victims, who are the topic of every article.  Is everyone in New York City chronically depressed?  Don't answer that.  I already know.

If you want to read a concise essay about this book, you are better off reading the Wikipedia entry - there is less of an attempt by the author(s) to appear sophisticated and worldly - and wordy.  I got the impression that the NYT essay was more about making a subtle product placement for the upcoming movie than anything else.

Of course, I wonder, have I changed or has the NYT changed or both?  Print media is dying slowly and most of us are not willing to pay $6 to read the Sunday times or to pay the monthly subscription fee to read it online.  Yes, we are part of the problem.  As a result, they have less money to spend on reporters and office staff.  The vaunted "fact checking" section of The New Yorker was axed early on, and it is becoming more and more common to see obvious typos in articles in print and online - editors and proofreaders were the next to go.  Why have a proofreader when you have spell-check?

It seems like most journalistic outlets are being run like how Elon Musk runs Twitter - fire everyone, even the Janitors, and just wing it.  What could possibly go wrong?

And once again, the problem is us.  As "investors" we all want to "beat the market" and have a great rate of return.  So it isn't enough for a newspaper to make a small profit - not when they can be the subject of a leveraged buy-out and make big bucks for the shareholders!  The shareholders are the ultimate concern - not anyone else.

Oddly enough, our European friends have other ideas - that a company is run not just to profit the shareholders, but to provide benefits to society as a whole.  They have this crazy idea (that we used to have in this country) that the privilege of forming a corporation - which provides a plethora of benefits, including shielding shareholders from liability - is done to benefit society as a whole.  The corporation can amass capital and do things that a sole proprietor or partnership cannot do.

Weirder still, today we see these same corporations being owned or controlled by one man - the sole proprietor usurping the corporation entirely.   What a weird timeline we live in.

Sadly, this will not change anytime soon, or at all.  The print newspaper is pretty much dead, killed off by the screen.  The few that remain are advertising supplements and little more - snippets of "content" wedged between pages and pages of ads.

Print is dead.  Will content be dead as well?