Sunday, March 20, 2011

Almost ready to embrace The Dark Side

In recent months, I've noticed my daily routine changing. After waking, smooching my wife, starting the coffee, and feeding the pets, I stumble outdoors and pick up the paper. I'll check the headlines and see what idiocy is on the N&O edit page, and then boot up my laptop and read the news online.

This is a big deal, and a total reversal of how I've consumed newspapers over the past four-plus decades.

As a child, we often subscribed to two daily papers (The Winston-Salem Journal and The Charlotte Observer.) When I went away to college, at times, I'd take three -- the Charlotte O, the News & Observer, and The Durham Morning Herald. I'd often catch up on The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal in the library. I'm a newsprint and ink guy. And yet, I'm getting more and more of my information over the Web.

For one thing, the N&O -- and most local dailies -- are shrinking, constantly. There was a time last year that, on a typical Monday and Tuesday, the N&O would put out a front and metro section that consumed 14 pages, combined. There's not much there there anymore.

And yet home delivery prices haven't gone down in concert with column inches.

There's a temptation to subscribe to the e-edition -- it's about half the cost of home delivery, and it provides what I find important in a newspaper: A representation of the layout, letting you know where stories were placed in the physical paper, providing insight into what the editors though were the most important stories.

What it lacks is the tactile experience of reading the paper.

In fact, if it weren't for the comics and the ad supplements on Sundays, I'd go digital with no regrets. I'm not there yet. But the fact that I'm even thinking about it says a lot.