Friday, April 30, 2010

What I got in my first issue of the Philadelphia Daily News

As expected, my first issue of the Philadelphia Daily News landed with a startle-me-out-of-my-sleep SMACK on the front steps this morning. After checking my e-mail on my iPhone, I decided to forgo electronic stimulation for a little while and spend some time with my new newspaper.

And time I spent. It takes me five-to-10 minutes most mornings to blaze through Philly headlines on my Google Reader. But that's only the "local news" headlines. There's a lot more stuff in the paper, obviously, but there's something about the physical medium of paper that slows. you. down.

Or maybe that's just me.

In any case, I spent about an hour with the Daily News this morning -- probably aided by the fact that the Friday edition is a little fatter with weekend "things to do around town" news than its sister issues the rest of the week. Here's what I found:

* CRIME: Actually, I was always getting the crime news on my RSS feed from, but I usually raced past it. For whatever reason, I spent more time with it. There's a lot of crime in Philly! But you knew that.

* ADS: You forget how relatively ad-free most news websites are -- how the hell are they making money, anyway? -- until you dip back into a print newspaper and face an onslaught of commerce. Oh yeah, that's why news organizations are still printing newspapers. Ads for cars, ads for services, ads for apartments, ads for nudie bars. I, uh, won't make use of the last one.

* COMICS: Garfield still sucks. Still, it was the comics page that started my newspaper addiction when I was five years old. I wonder how -- or if -- today's young people might find their first connection to their local news organizations. Maybe through...

* SPORTS: Philly's a huge sports town. I've kind of not engaged that directly. But I know today that Eagles QB Kevin Kolb signed a one-year contract extension, and that Brad Lidge is coming off the DL for the Phillies series with the (boooo!) Mets. So I know way more about that kind of stuff than I did yesterday. Which means I might be able to have coherent conversations with other dudes around town.

* ATTYTOOD: No, not Will Bunch. (Though he was there, with an article about the new CEO of the Daily News, Inky and I mean a tabloid sensibility to its news coverage that the staid and stuffy folks at broadsheets around the country would surely disdain. Maybe I'm staid and stuffy: I have to read past that stuff to get to the news. But a little verve probably doesn't hurt your engagement with readers.

* LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: It's like online comments. Only culled for the best ones. And with real names attached! It's actually kind of nice.

* USA WEEKEND: I didn't really need that, actually. But maybe that's just me.

It was, overall, a good time. Not perfect: There were some questionable typographic and layout choices -- but weirdly, that was also part of the charm. It's hard to screw up a web page, because most news sites are formatted to give you the same design for every single story. Trying to make the news fit around ads is a somewhat more complicated endeavor, with increased chances to screw up the look of things. It's a little more ... human.

Print newspapers aren't going to replace online news in my media diet. I'll spend some time with the New York Times and Washington Post later this morning, completely contained in the land of pixels. Maybe, though, there's still room for a bit of print in my life. Certainly, the best way for me to financially support local newsgathering is to buy a subscription to the print newspaper. And as you can see, there are benefits and charms to doing so.

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