Thursday, May 5, 2016

Newspapers Old and New

Some weeks ago, a relative sent me a copy of The Jerusalem Post, picked up on her way back from East Africa fifty years ago. Several characteristics stood out: there were many brief stories; all stories not local were from wire services; and the name Israel did not appear outside quotation marks.

The number of stories came first to the eye. I count fifty stories in a four-page broadsheet newspaper. One could quibble about the average density of the stories, for many are of this or that government viewing some development with concern. One in fact says that the People's Republic of China views with concern the USSR's viewing with insufficient concern certain actions of the USA. Still, truces are enforced, ceasefires take effect, the US sends its troops into the Dominican Republic and pulls its civilian nationals out, France leaves NATO, an earthquake strikes El Salvador.

I have had a look at The Washington Post's Metro section the last couple of days. Each day it ran to eight pages. Deducting obituaries and paid death notices, the weather, and local interest or opinion columns, there remained three and a half or four pages for news articles each day. In Tuesday's paper, I counted thirteen articles, in today's seventeen. Some of the longer articles justified their length, others could be have been reduced a good deal with little loss of information. The A Section of today's New York Times mostly has two or three pieces on an inside page.

I suppose that in an age of electronically provided news, this is what newspapers must do. No special edition of a print newspaper could compete with radio to break news, let alone the internet. One chooses the newspaper for longer pieces, and perhaps more insight. In the case of an article about the District of Columbia paying snow-removal bills with credit cards, I think the Post delivered that. Plenty of other pieces in both Post and Times give one paragraphs to amuse or pass the time, but don't especially inform.


  1. When I first started publishing, newspaper reviews were considered gold. Now there are few books editors left, and the importance of them has lessened, even though they tend to be both in print and online.

    1. Yes, The Washington Post eliminated its separate Sunday book review something like ten years ago, though it still has a book editor. Now the reviews take up with back half of a section shared with opinion columns.

      I read it, and I read the NY Times Sunday Book Review, but not with close attention. Partly, I think, this is because of the overwhelming quantity of print behind the pages. I have elsewhere ( calculated that on the average Sunday the NY Times reviews books that would take me six months to read through at my usual rate.