The 21st Century Newspaper

by Brett Battles

Let’s face it. Newspapers in their current, printed form aren’t long for this planet. I’m talking about the mainstream, pay-per-issue kind. I think the free versions, such as LA Weekly here in Los Angeles and similar papers around the country, might be able to hold on. But those papers we grew up with, me the L.A. Times, won’t be there in a few years.

Why? Because the only people buying them are people over fifty-five, and even they aren’t buying them as much. Okay, there are probably some people under fifty-five purchasing a paper, but the statistics are pretty clear that the majority of customers are in the older bracket. This is the pre-computer on every lap generation. They grew up with papers, and they continue to read them. My parents, for instance, have a subscription to their local paper, and I have to tell you, each time I visit, that daily paper is thinner and thinner. Sure, my generation was mostly pre-computer on every lap also, but we were enough on the cusp that most of us have taken pretty readily to the digital age. I should say my parents have taken to the digital age, too, as have many of their friends. They email, surf the web, and play games on their laptops, but even though they do, they still like their paper.

We all know the papers are going away because of this switch to a computer driven society. Information is now at our fingertips. If we want to know something, we just check our laptops or smart phones or netbooks or iPads.

Sure, a lot of the traditional newspapers have websites now, and that might be how they figure out to stay relevant. There are also other news sites: CNN, Yahoo, BBC World just to name a few. These are all great, but for me, the opportunity is there for something more personal. Thankfully, the Interwebs have created ways for me to satisfy what I’m looking for.

In effect, I have my very own newspaper that I check everyday. The Brett Times, I guess, or the Brett Herald-Examiner. (I actually haven’t given it a name, but maybe I should think about it.) I’ll bet that most of you have one, too, these days.

What I’m talking about is using an RSS feed reader. Basically this is a web-based tool that gathers the latest posts from all the blogs I’m interested in reading, and presents them to me whenever I want. There are many of these readers out there. I use Google Reader. Though I’m sure there are better ones, I’m just too lazy to check around.

What is great about this new newspaper, and what makes it so much better than any of the printed papers I used to read growing up, is that it’s completely tailored to my tastes. I chose the blogs I want, I divide them into sections, and voila, the Brett Times.

I have a sports section completely focused on sports I’m interested in and my specific team (Go Angels!). I have a publishing section which includes Sarah Weinman’s blog, Ali Karim’s blog, some book marketing blogs, etc. I have a writing section which includes an interesting one I’ve heard of called Murderati. I have a Pop Culture section that has a wide breath of material from gossip, to film reviews, to humor, to Sci-Fi related things. I also have a Los Angles section where I get feeds from several Los Angeles based blogs. This last one’s great for not just my local news, but also for letting me know when there are shows and festivals around that I might want to attend.

The thing is, though the traditional newspaper might be on the way out, an even more personal, and (in my mind) useful digital paper has taken its place.

Okay, I’m not going to getting to the quality of reporting and that whole argument. Yes, I know there are some problems there that need to be figured out. But for the stuff I’m interested in, the info I’m getting is fine. And if I need more, I can go to the more traditionally based blogs.

So I thought I’d share a few links to some of the blogs I follow and enjoy, in case you wanted to follow them, too):

 

From my Apple Section (yeah, I’m one of those):

Apple Insider 

The Unofficial Apple Weblog 

 

From my Baseball Section:

MLB Trade Rumors  

 

From my Inspire Section:

Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog 

Pixdaus – Nature Photography 

 

From my Los Angeles Section:

LAist 

 

From my Music Section:

The Daily Swarm 

 

And, finally, several from my Pop Culture Section:

Pop Culture Nerd 

io9 

L.A. Noir 

Cinematical 

Letters of Note 

TVSquad 

Further Dispatches (Hurley from LOST’s Blog) 

 

That’s just a sampling. I actually follow more than fifty blogs this way. It might even be close to one hundred.

So, computer literate people (which you all are), what are some of the blog that are part of (or would be part of) your personal newspaper?

20 thoughts on “The 21st Century Newspaper

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    Re: newspapers. I think there is a give and take in the newspaper business. I think few papers actually cover the news anymore therefore there are fewer readers therefore less advertisers wanting to invest in that medium. Why? It has become so slanted it is difficult to get straight news.
    I get my local paper The Billings Gazette in paper form on Sundays because my husband likes to read the ads, otherwise I check it out online every morning. I do get the Wall Street Journal in paper form every day by mail out here in the boonies (apparently) but sadly I don’t always have time to read it cover to cover in the evenings. But then I’m a news junkie. My first couple years in college, I wanted to be a journalist and like many of my generation I was inspired by All the President’s Men only to find it really wasn’t like that and surely is even a completely different animal today. Even saying what news sites I go to indicates a political affiliation and the newsie in me just cringes at that but there it is.
    So to keep it non-partisan, some sites I go to: I like Pandora for music online. I have subscriptions to audible.com and netflix. I check out bing.com every day for their fabulous photo of the day cover shot when I’m writing my blog. I get notifications from paperbackswap.com about books for which I have added to my list.Stopyourekillingme.com is a frequent stop for publication order of books. I read Murderati of course, and my 4ma digests. When I have time to really surf I make the rounds of book blogs, news sites, and so forth. I can spend the entire day doing that if I let myself.

    Reply
  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    It is eerie to see how thin the papers are. I don’t have the patience to set up an "Alex Times" but I have something much better – my private screenwriters’ message board is full of brilliant people who post links to the best articles on the top news (and buried news) of the day. It’s like having an online newspaper designed especially for me only I don’t have to do any of the designing.

    Between writing blogs for Murderati and my own Screenwriting Tricks blog, I have zero time to visit other blogs. I just can’t. Thank God you Rati are plenty interesting enough to keep me busy.

    Reply
  3. JD Rhoades

    I’m a news junkie too, and like Alex, I’m shocked every time I buy a paper and see how much thinner it’s gotten (and for more money, too!) I only do that now when I’m eating lunch alone and have no book in the car, which is rare.

    I do pretty much the same thing you do, Brett, except I use the Google Homepage rather than the Reader. I’ve got one tab for news (Washington Post, NY Times, McClatchy, AP, BBC); One for political blogs (Balloon Juice, Ezra Klein, Ta-Nehisi Coates); One for ‘Fun Stuff" (The Comics Curmudgeon, Gawker, Aint It Cool News); two for books– one mystery (Murderati, Sarah Weinman, The Rap Sheet) and one for SF/Fantasy (John Scalzi, Charlie Stross, Neil Gaiman); and one for "Geek Stuff" (Wired, BldgBlog, BoingBoing, Slashdot). There are more blogs than this on each of the pages, but those are my favorites on each one. No I don’t read all of them every day. I pick and choose from the headlines and read what I want while drinking my morning coffee. Like I’m doing right now.

    Reply
  4. Barbara

    Brett, I have had so many of these same feelings over the past few years. In the morning, I open my email, then my Google Reader. There are probably close to a hundred sites I follow that reflect my personality including ones related to writing, cooking, decorating, gardening, pets, crime, movies and books. It makes it so easy to just breeze through things and can be a great time waster as well. Of course, Murderati is a standout and I have guilty pleasures like Bookshelf Porn and Pop of Red–because I’m obsessed with that color–that I love.

    For many years, I fought the good fight toiling in community journalism, running the editorial side of a chain of weeklies. When they were sold, it was heartbreaking for me and those communities. The internet does provide some improvements–instant access to crucial information, no time-consuming, frustrating angst over fitting column inches, but there’s still nothing like opening the paper and seeing your kid’s name in there for scoring a goal, reading the wedding announcements and feeling that connection to your neighbors.

    I could go on and on about the state of journalism, but that’s a different topic all together and I’m actually on deadline today. The lines between reporting the news and reporting your views are so blurred I wonder how many readers can see the difference. I cringe at so much I see on the web and want to slap the people who started "loose" for lose, "quite" for quiet and "ecscape" for escape.

    Reply
  5. Alafair Burke

    I still love my paper New York Times. I also go to msnbc, cnn, huff post, and politico. TMZ and Perez for gossip. Murderati, of course, as well as a bunch of the other book blogs mentioned. I worry, though, about the shift to user-specific news flows. I want to be exposed to views I disagree with and stuff I didn’t know I was interested in until I happened to find it on the back page of the arts section. Left to my own devices, I’m not convinced I do a good enough job creating my own newspaper.

    Reply
  6. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    God, I am so out of touch. I’m like my father’s grandfather, and I don’t even know if he could read.

    Reply
  7. Allison Davis

    Ah, the good and the bad of it. I subscribe to three newspapers just because I can still. But my iGoogle pages has lots of streaming blogs (including Murderati), my sister’s NGO that does work in Haiti and my friend’s blog about building a Kayak. So I can get national, local and really, really local news for a few minutes scan every morning. Hard to compete with that.

    Reply
  8. mary lynn

    I read the LA Times and the NY Times online and work their crossword puzzles online, too. But I really love my Google homepage. I get the OED word of the day, Reuters top news, Reuters odd news, top bits from Salon.com and NPR. I also read BBC top news, Discovery and New Scientist news, and alas, People news. I’m a news junkie, too, haveing been a news broadcaster back when the news was news.

    I also have Google widgets for literary quote of the day, the same for C.S.Lewis, a spanish verb of the day and a recipe of the day.

    Of course reading news online allows me to filter, but I/we did the same thing when print was all we had. We would selectively read stories and when possible subscribe to the newspaper that most closely aligned with our beliefs. I took the St. Louis Post Dispatch, not the Globe.

    At least we’re saving some trees.

    Reply
  9. Pop Culture Nerd

    Hey, I get to be in a section of the Brett Sun-Times? Awesome!

    I have to say I not only read the physical L.A. Times, I subscribe to it. I believe that makes me about 97 years old. I know in a few years I’ll no longer be able to open my door to a paper on the stoop, but my father was a newspaper man and I can’t bear to think that the medium he worked in will be erased from existence.

    Reply
  10. pari noskin taichert

    I go to political blogs everyday, or almost, except lately I’ve gotten so tired of the OUTRAGE on all of them on the left and right. I’m just getting exhausted with anger everywhere. So I’m taking a news break for the moment.

    I don’t go to many other blogs on a consistent basis, I guess I’m kind of cocooning creatively and trying to reassess what’s important to be before letting other ideas influence me for the moment.

    Like Alafair, I am concerned about self-selecting the news. What papers used to do well was to present more than one viewpoint or leaning so that we got a more rounded world view. That’s changing.

    One of my favorite blogs about writing and the writing life is Kris Rusch’s Freelancer’s Guide. She always writes about relevant subjects for writers in a very coherent and thoughtful way:
    http://www.kristinekathrynrusch.com/

    Reply
  11. toni mcgee causey

    I’m with Pari on the outrage on all sides. It’s driving me nuts and it’s not producing results.

    Having been a newspaper journalist at one point, it kills me to see it disappearing, but it is. I miss the local angles, though, that you can only get from small town newspapers, the things you wouldn’t know to seek out on a blog, that connect us to our neighbors.

    I miss the sense of real community, instead of a global conglomerate of community/networking.

    But I, too, have cut back on the papers and have plenty of blogs and news sites and various other interests feeding into my reader daily, and I can’t even keep up with those interests.

    Reply
  12. Spencer Seidel

    Whenever I go to visit my parents, both over 70, I have to laugh because they always seem to have a hundred newspapers laying around. I haven’t read a newspaper in years because as a news junky, I know that "the paper" just can’t keep up with cable TV and blogs!

    Reply
  13. JT Ellison

    I’m a RSS feeder myself – though I’m constantly changing, cleaning, and delousing mine to keep it to the bare minimum. I like TV news still, and the Sunday paper. I get the daily emails of our local papers and the NYT. Otherwise, I get a lot of news from Twitter, people I follow I can count on to tweet really great stuff.

    Reply
  14. jennypittsberg

    At the newspapers, the ads had size limitations. The magazines I worked for insisted the ads were β€œcamera-ready,” meaning that the ads could be inserted into the magazine’s proof copy without any work by the magazine at all.

    christian louboutin

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