Stand and Stare
The Newspaper, Edouard Vuillard, c. 1896−98
From Le Monde Diplomatique:
Our usual answer to the complaint that we’ve neglected activities or a cause is “we haven’t the time” — to read books or see films that are too long, or stroll round a museum or even down a street. We can’t read an article on a new subject without being interrupted, wherever we are, by an urgent call for our attention.
The new technologies, supposed to help us save time, are partly to blame, making it quick and cheap to move, to research, to send information and to communicate. But life is becoming dominated by demands for rapid response, and there are so many more tasks to be performed. “We have no time to stand and stare”.
Sometimes we haven’t the money, either: although a magazine, like Le Monde diplomatique, or a newspaper, is not that expensive, it is still a lot for people with limited means — working, unemployed, students, retired. That’s one reason why newspapers are closing down. Readership is steadily declining as reading papers, especially those that aren’t free, becomes another chore in aheavy schedule. Xavier Niel, co-owner of internet provider Free and Le Monde, thinks there will be no print newspapers at all in a generation.
It might be different if the funding went to screen or tablet versions: the same thing in a different form. Information on science, culture and leisure would reach more people faster. Moreover democracy would hardly suffer if periodicals whose only purpose is to boost their proprietor’s profits (or influence) were to cease publication. But the new information technologies do not provide the same number of jobs or resources for journalists. They must work for nothing, that is, have some other source of income, like most bloggers: the profession is no longer certain of a future.
There used to be newspapers everywhere: on trains, on the underground, in cafes, at political meetings. How often now do you see anyone with a paper that isn’t a free handout? Circulation in western Europe and the US has dropped by 17% in the past five years. In France, even elections no longer get people rushing to buy papers: sales of daily papers between January and August 2012 were 7.6% down on the same period last year. And sales of the top sports paper, L’Equipe, fell in July and August, during the Olympics.