Newspapers in an e-age

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Newspapers are an interesting breed.

They are dinosaurs in a computer age, antiquated and behind the minute they hit the newsstands.

So, what’s the point of news on print?

After all, I can log onto the World Wide Web and read news reports of a speech given no more than 10 minutes ago – or better yet, updates about a president’s State of the Union as the president is giving it, as was the case with the last State of the Union speech.

The Web has taken over as the primary source of news for many. For others, radio and television still remain the main source of news. Yet some still cling to newspapers.

Perhaps, it is the feel of newsprint – the ink that winds up on pretty much everything. Or, it is the joy one receives while sitting at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and holding in his or her hands a newspaper. A computer screen just isn’t quite the same.

But newspapers aren’t too far behind the times.

Almost all newspapers by now have embraced the Web. But, how willingly they have done so is the question.

Is it because they felt compelled? Or, is it because they deemed a Web page necessity of modern day life?

Web pages vary in designs, as do the layouts of print newspapers. Some are very graphical-based and some aren’t. Some require users to log in some are free.

Al Neuharth, founder of and a columnist for the USA Today, makes an interesting point in his latest column. He is referencing the Wall Street Journal’s new “colorful” approach to its layout.

“Editors and publishers of most other newspapers across the USA decided long ago that the television generation simply would not read dull, gray newspapers. So, they brightened up their pages. Made them look more like TV, without sacrificing depth of content,” he wrote.

He also points out that over the last 20 years, the paper has seen its circulation slip from 1,925,000 to 1,780,000. It is also interesting to note, although the WSJ does have a web page, it charges users to read.

One could argue, the WSJ, a 112-year-old newspaper, is behind the times. It isn’t user-friendly in a generation where looks are everything. Well, maybe half of everything. The other half is an easy to use, and free, Web page.

Perhaps, it is more of a mentality, then reality.

The USA Today is almost a mirror opposite.

The newspaper was founded to be a newspaper ahead of its time. It used the technology of satellites when it was began publication on Sept. 15, 1982.

Today they use a new technology to enhance their printed-paper – the Web. Their site is constantly updated with the latest breaking news, even on weekends – despite the fact the newspaper is only printed five days a week.

In one sense, smaller papers have it harder to create a home on the Web because of costs relating to site development. On the other hand, however, they can use the web to reach readers from around the world, even though their circulation may only reach subscribers around the county.

The Web has had a positive influence on newsgathering agencies. The Associated Press, for example, has used the Web to enhance papers’ Web sites with its that allows users to view stories running in their hometown paper.

The AP, however, has always been dedicated to newsgathering, rather then publishing newspapers, making it a more adaptable entity in an e-age.

News sources, in particular newspapers, can benefit from the Web. It should be viewed as a welcome medium for sharing information, not another bit of technology to clutter our lives.