The Day the Printing Stopped: An Obituary by Ron Steinman

The Day the Printing Stopped: A Short Obituary of the End of Newspapers as We Knew Them. By Ron Steinman

A recent news item stated that because of the current economic chaos in Greece, Greek newspapers were in serious trouble because they were running out of paper. Yes, running out of paper! That, coupled with a recent Pew report that has the news business dying faster than we thought makes the death of the newspaper, as we once knew it, more real. Many no longer read newspapers, anyway. But for those who do, the end is near. This story takes place on the day newspapers finally died. Consider this a foray into the future. Fantasy or reality – take your pick. Accept it. It is coming sooner than you think.

As I did every morning, I opened the door to my apartment at 7:30. I looked right. I looked left. I looked up and down the soft-lighted hallway. Nothing. My newspaper had not arrived as it had mostly done for many years. I did not know then that my paper would never again grace the hallway outside my apartment ready for me to read.

Disappointed, I went to my computer where I have my paper online as a backup. I saw the sad headlines in news alerts and on every news Web site. Newspapers finally had ended their run. It is about time, said many commentators, all of whom lived on the Web. Newspapers had been in trouble for years. As we know, they had been facing serious problems. Advertising had shrunk to almost nothing. Papers were barely readable because the stock of ink had almost run out. Pages had become as thin as tissue paper. Many of the few remaining papers had already shrunk to 8×11 letter size with editions having no more than a dozen pages.

Unknown to its declining audience, and without a word to the public, the last newspaper had rolled off the presses the previous day in those cities where there were still daily papers. As expected, there were no headlines announcing the end of newspapers. Malaise set in immediately for the remaining devoted followers of the skeletons newspapers had become.

As a tribute to the ignorance of the masses, hardly anyone, except the old, the infirm and a scholar or two, knew newspapers were missing. The loss of the information a newspaper once carried meant nothing to most people. The young distained detailed information anyway, so it was easy to understand why they did not care. They had stopped reading many years before. They mostly dealt in pixels anyway. And we know that pixels have no permanence.

The few remaining working reporters and editors headed to their favorite saloons, wept into their double whiskeys – water back, thin draft beer on the side – and wondered about their fate. Earlier victims of the change, and there were many, lived in trailer parks, in outmoded minivans, in SRO hotels or assisted living facilities. Retirees now, they existed on reduced pensions and limited Social Security. Their lives with their many endings would not have a reporter assigned to tell their story. Their stories would remain buried in bottom desk drawers, forever lost to posterity.

Next up is cable news, also dying a slow, tortuous death. News will soon no longer matter as people finally become one with their smart phones, the inevitable symbiotic outcome in a world where self is more important than anything shared.

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