Thursday, February 7, 2008

"Upgrading" to Online

A recent news story from Madison, WI told of a 90-year-old newspaper. Capital Times has been in print for 90 years and currently has a circulation of around 17,000. This all sounds good, right? Well, so far, yes, but there is more to the story. After its many years of service to the community, Capital Times is suspending the daily printing of their newspaper.

On Thursday, newspaper publisher Clayton Frink said, "The paper will end its six-day a week publication and instead offer readers a tabloid-style insert in the Wisconsin State Journal twice weekly." Along with this, the newspaper hopes to focus more on "internet operations." This should be a very interesting switch for the newspaper, but unfortunately it will affect more than just the subscribers. The newspaper is predicting many layoffs and cuts in the staff. The number of needed employees will decrease through the process of changing from print to online versions of the newspaper.

To me, this is a very sad story. There is something special about getting a newspaper delivered to your home everyday. I am not a fan of the ink that comes off on my hands, but you can't give up the feel of the newspaper in your hands. Everything is laid out for you, all you have to do is flip through and choose which stories you want to read. I can carry the newspaper with me and cut out anything I might want to show to others.

I would love to talk to Keen about this topic. I am sure there are more newspapers than Capital Times who are struggling with this exact same issue. I am guessing that Keen would blame the Web 2.0 era for this event. For the first time, I might actually agree with him on something. People are turning to online sources for their news over the physical papers.

So, what is the ethical issue here? I think people need to be aware of what they are doing when they start switching to online versions of papers. Not only are the people at the actual newspaper being put out of a job. Think about all the delivery people. Moving deeper into the company, think about the people who repaired the press, ordered and delivered the supplies to keep the company running, and even the people who will no longer be receiving their daily papers. What if they do not have a computer (as shocking as it may be, I know people who still do not own a computer)? I am sure many newspapers will be dealing with situations like this in the next several decades. It will be interesting to see what they all choose to do.

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