April 26, 2009

The Unfolding Evolution of News

There has been a steady circulation of stories about the declining state of the newspaper, whose death has been predicted for some time. National Buy A Newspaper Day took place this past February 2. Its cause reads like a manifesto:

“The fact of the matter is that the biggest chains are deeply in debt. Major cities that have had at least two daily newspapers for more than a century, such as Chicago and Seattle, might soon find themselves with only one source of news. Other papers, such as those in Detroit are no longer providing daily home delivery. If things get really bad, some experts say that some small towns might not have any paper by 2010.”

The last line testifies to a recent news radio story whose title posed a welcoming prospect to some, but a harsh one to others: Imagining A City Without Its Daily Newspaper. Most of my news comes from the radio and the web, but another source comes from my Parents, who share a story or a piece of commentary that they’ve read from the local newspaper. Many news sites are brimming with information, dynamic and compact, but they do not constitute a broadsheet.

On many occasions I’ve watched my parents spread a newspaper across a tabletop or using both hands to read it upright—a signal that the daily exercise of a vigorous read had begun. They literally immersed themselves into the visual composition of the news that the broadsheet afforded. Toggling and scanning above and below the fold, from story to story and page to page with ease. Dealing with newspapers is like unfolding a map.

The evolution of newspapers will ultimately find its way. There’s recognition in newspaper designer Jacek Utko’s successful bottom-up drive, with small teams and minimal resources, to convert a struggling medium into a mainstay that sticks to readers. The exploration of intersecting newspapers and blogs is also worth highlighting and proves promising. Let’s hope the newspaper’s evolution doesn’t result in a lost format.