If You Love Newspapers, Let Them Go

A handy guide to kicking your dead tree habit

Newspaper. Personally, I never touch the stuff. But rumor has it there is a certain amount of distress about the impending doom of the news-on-dead-tree industry.

Here at Reason, our “News You Can Use” stories tend toward subjects like what to use as a bong when the Feds close down your neighborhood head shop, but yesterday I put our crack team of summer interns, Jesse Kline and Robby Soave, on the case of what to do after the last print run of the last newspaper ends. Our goal was twofold: 1) selfless public service journalism, and 2) selfish desire to ease the glide into a marvelous digital future.

We assumed for the sake of the experiment that The New York Times would be the last to go. Since I refuse to sully my delicate hands with filthy newsprint, Jesse and Robby paged through Wednesday’s edition in search of facts and insights that would need replacing in the event that print news goes kaput. Below is a sampling of sites you might want to include in your RSS reader or browser bookmark list, to get ready for the time when newspaper is no more. Dead tree diehards should think of the suggestions below as a stockpile of digital canned food for when the newsprint apocalypse occurs.

The experiment hit its first hurdle—and the first reminder of why newspapers aren’t doing so well—when Robby found himself quarter-less in the big city. A purchase of a Mountain Dew from a handy roadside vendor only yielded four quarters, falling short of the eight needed to extract a paper from a vending machine. Further searching led him to a Starbucks, where he could have read anything in the world online (for free!). But he chose to spend his $2 (well, my $2) on a newspaper anyway and diligently brought it back to the office.

Here’s what they found, in print and online:

Front Section: The front page contained highlights from yesterday’s World Cup game, news of General McChrystal’s impending spanking at the White House, the British budget, and the Times Square Bomber. We were pretty sure there were better places to find this information. ESPN.com is a good place to start for pre-chewed sports news—with greater detail, accuracy, and linkable stats than the paper version of the Times—but those who are serious about soccer will probably want to check out FIFA’s site as well. McChrystal gossip and news are available minute-to-minute at Politico. Real time links to relevant political news sources can also be grabbed from breitbart.com.

Numerous pages inside the A section were dominated by oil spill news. Times reporting and analysis is good, but why stop there? Go to Oilaholic, where oil spill news, tweets, blog posts, video, and maps are aggregated for your consumption. Furthermore, a Times report on the progress of the Census could be replaced by head-counting obsessive blog MyTwoCensus.

Want to know if any famous people kicked the bucket recently? Why not go to Wikipedia, which maintains a well organized list of dead celebrities, sometime beating the families of the deceased to the announcement. You might also want to try Hollywood Memoir, which can sort based on cause of death, and has lists for less well-known celebrities. You can also search people's names and find out if they’ve died at Legacy.com. Finally, you can view the obituaries of every newspaper in the country at Obituaries.com.

As for the Opinion pages, Reason should meet your needs there. But if you must, it could be supplemented with the columns aggregated at RealClearPolitics, or you could enjoy a firehose of opinion at Huffington Post or Daily Kos. Want to come back over and over to a name you trust? Hit up brand name bloggers like Glenn Reynolds, Matt Yglesias, Megan McArdle, and more.

Business: Perhaps the saddest page of the Grey Lady, B2, is a list of links where you can go to find actual breaking news, which you would have to manually type in while holding your paper edition in front of you at the computer. Stock quotes, frozen in time and presented in a non-interactive format are improved upon at online finance sites like Yahoo! Finance, which would also be a better source for information like “China’s Currency Falls, a Day After Gain.” Interested in what’s going on in the world of advertising? Don’t settle for one print story about how diaper companies are advertising to dads on TV. Check out Advertising Age or AdWeek, where you might actually be able to watch the ad. Get the weather at weather.com.

New York real estate obsessives have long since left the Times behind, preferring to haunt sites, like Curbed NY, which combine development news with for-sale ads, trend stories, and gossip—sortable by relevant neighborhoods. Apple has a new phone out and the Times tech reviewer, appropriately enough, senses his own irrelevance: “This is where you’d expect to find a review.... But honestly—what’s the point?” he asks. “The public seems to be perfectly capable of sniffing out a winner without the help of tech critics.” That’s true, thanks in part to the flood of information geeks already have about the device from dedicated feeds at sites like Engadget, Slashdot, and CNet.

Sports: Weirdly hiding in the back of the Business section, the whole sports page can be replaced by ESPN, or relevant fan/league sites for the sport of your choice. Want brand-name sports writers? Check out Will Leitch or Bill Simmons.

Arts: For long form semi- or wholly pretentious writing of the best kind, you won’t do better than Arts & Letters Daily for the essays everyone is, or should be, talking about. Wondering about Tuesday’s lackluster Manet auction? For breaking updates on art news, events, sales, collections and the like, visit ArtInfo. To buy, sell, or browse collections and auctions, try Christie’s and Bonhams and Butterfields.

You’ll probably want something to do this weekend. For that, there’s NYC Arts, NYC.com, and Event Guide. Broadwayspace has up-to-date information on shows, actors, and actresses. If you’re feeling stalk-y, you can also try the site’s Twitter page, which tweets celebrity sightings and gossip. Movie times can be found on so many devices, in so many different formats, geared to your specific location, it seems like we’re only a couple of years from getting showtimes beamed directly into our brains, so it’s a little surprising to still find them here in the paper.

Dining: The Internet is overflowing with options for foodies and people who just love to eat. Slashfood is a handy aggregator. Wondering about farms in the Bronx or food co-ops in Brooklyn? How about SeriousEatsNY? Want an intimate look into a New Yorker’s kitchen in the style of Melissa Clark or Mark Bittman? Try the beautiful and useful blog Smitten Kitchen.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Terry Michael||

    Hi, I'm Terry, and I WAS a newspaperaholic. But I broke the habit last September, at the age of 62, when I decided I no longer wanted to pay $750 per year to have a few pounds of New York Times crash into the fragile plant in that brick box next to my front door on Capitol Hill. So I signed up for the $1.99 NYTimes app on my iPhone, which seemed a good deal--even though I wouldn't be able to huff the vapors of Times' ink anymore, nor fill my non-recycling waste basket with all that newsprint. But my aging eyes find it difficult to read on my iPhone, and the iPad is a little too big to carry, so I mostly get my Times fix from aggregator links or I struggle to find reading glasses or hold my fucking iPhone about three yards away from my eyes. It is hard to live without my stained dead trees, but I think I will make it. Hope you young people never have to go through the hell I am facing with this almost cold-turkey solution to my so-called "newsPAPER" addiction. Peace be with you. god is great.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Why the god damn stupid New York Times? There are other cheaper, more accurate, less socialist newspapers that hipster dipshits don't read to choose from.

  • Atanarjuat||

    C_A, I think the kids these days are saying "+1". Maybe he's a Krugman fan?

  • Nelson Muntz||

    "Ha ha! Your medium is dying!"

    "Nelson!"

    "But it is...!"

    "There's being right, and there's being nice."

  • Terry Michael||

    Could someone throw a bottle of bourbon, in a long, plain brown, newspaper-length, plastic wrapper on my front porch each morning? It sure would help me get through this.

  • Tman||

    If you've been reading the NYT for that long, I'm not sure bourbon will be sufficient to help you.

  • Keef Richards||

    Breakfast, me lads, is a bottle full of a mix of 'alf codeine and 'alf whiskey. That'll make yer ya-yas, um, get out or somethin'... cor, I usedta know this shit... where's me trombone?

  • Mick Jagger||

    Keef, dear, you don' play th' trombone. Now, be a good lad an' have yer wakey-wakey dowse...

  • ||

    It is a dead certainty that, whatever succeeds the internet, there will be moves afoot to prevent it being allowed to die. The justifications will be very similar to those used for moves aimed at 'saving' newspapers nowadays.

  • ||

    Is this a good time to reveal that I'm actually paid to switch vacuum tubes in computers?

  • ||

    Not right now.

    I've got to get the office abacus repaired right away.

  • ||

    Hold on, I'm busy mimeographing.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I LOVED that smell in school...made my throat hurt though.

    Book covers that i get to color? For only 2 dollars? Awesome! I want the one with the dragon

  • ||

    You have a mimeograph?

    Luxury!

    Six carbons in the office dactyliograph, otherwise we have to do the copies with our quills.

  • ||

    I was just writing some science fiction. In truth, I took a memo to our monks to make illuminated manuscript copies.

  • ||

    I'll have to wait for the mud to dry before I can tell if the cuneiform came out right.

  • ||

    Cuneiform? You lucky devil! We're all illiterate and communicate through oral epic verse.

  • ||

    Gotcha!

    Floridans aren't evolved enough to have speech centers.

  • ||

    You're correct. We are actually communicating via messenger RNA.

  • Thomas O.||

    Let me know if you need to borrow my slide rule to make straight lines with.

  • DRM||

    See, here's the problem; you picked the New York Times.

    If you're going to pick a paper to be the last one standing, pick one that actually shows signs of not dying. The Wall Street Journal, for example.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    I'm just trying to figure out a good way to put scraps of moveon.org at the bottom the cage for my hampster to poop on.

  • Finder||

    Check the classifieds. Moveon.org used to advertise for presstitutes in my town's newspaper.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    This article was boring I only read a couple of paragraphs I already know this shit anyway.

    "Since I refuse to sully my delicate hands with filthy newsprint New York Times..."

    Fixed that.

  • moveon.org||

    Looking for something to let your pet have a bowel-movement on. Why not let it moveon.org?

  • Atanarjuat||

    Note to self: If you have to make a call, do not borrow KMW's iphone.

  • Rhywun||

    Criminy. The last time I purchased a newspaper was probably during the first few weeks after I moved to NYC, just over 13 years ago. My former roommate arrived eventually arrived with his laptop, we found a pad, and the rest is history. Sometimes I pick up one of those freebies if there's one lying on the subway seat, but the whole notion of reading articles someone else chose for me just because they're there on the page is just so... tedious.

  • Nash||

    I like the LA Xpress. Although you can find alternatives to that online as well. So I've heard.

  • Jackson Kuhl||

    But without newspapers, how will I know every morning whether or not Garfield eats the lasagna?

  • Jeffersonian||

    Simple:

    http://www.garfield.com/

  • Thomas O.||

    Exactly... which is why I thought the New York Times was a poor choice of an example: They don't do comics.

    The hipper, younger crowd has already moved on to the edgier online-only webcomic world, with superb series like PvP, Least I Could Do, Questionable Content, Sinfest, Something Positive and so on. But if you still need your Garfield & Blondie fix, three sites have contained all the traditional print comics: Comics.com, GoComics.com and ComicsKingdom.com. The latter, run by King Features, is actually available only through participating local newspaper sites (I use mysa.com), which I thought was a smart move.

  • Evil Libertarian||

    Speaking of letting newspapers die, did everyone see that Weigel had to apologize to his readers for rants he made on Journolist about Drudge and the Washington Examiner?

  • eudaimonia||

    That you need thirty or so different websites to replicate one issue of the NYT actually reveals the value-add service that the NYT (or WSJ, or WP, or whatever) provides: it is an editorial aggregator, calibrated to appeal to the sensibilities of a specific demographic. This is, in fact, a valuable service, and will only grow more valuable: as the amount of sheer content available online increases, the value in picking out the best (which is to say, most interesting to a specific customer) of that content likewise increases. The dead tree edition is definitely on its way out, but the NYT, or something targeted at its particular market, will definitely survive. The future will belong to the editorial aggregators, and you will choose the one whose sensibility is most likely to match yours.

  • Joe Cassara||

    I begin mornings with USA Today's iPad application for a quick skim of the latest events and weather. (You even get the McPaper's sawtoothed header! Cute!) While driving to and fro throughout the day, it's WCBS-AM/New York, WSB-AM/Atlanta, and WTKS-FM/Orlando for news/talk via iPhone interfaced to my car stereo. (My local news/talk station, WIOD-AM, is just an atrocity.) For in-depth news consumption on evenings and weekends, it's nytimes.com and wsj.com. And I'm sure to check allthingsd.com and arstechnica.com when I'm feeling geeky.

  • ||

    I was a paperboy back in the days when it was six day delivery, after school and up early on Saturdays.
    It cost $1.50 for two weeks.
    I had 120 papers spread over six three story walkups.
    I cleared over a hundred bucks a month and I was rolling in it, man.
    I learned a lot from that job.
    From grade 5 to grade 8 until it wasn't cool to be a paperboy anymore.
    I wanted a real job which ended up being washing dishes at some crap motel restaurant. Anthony Bourdain thinks he had it rough where he was.

    I just don't see what took it's place.
    My kids will never have a paper route.
    Instead, I pay them to do the jobs around the house that I am happy to have a new pair of hands for.
    I paid my nine year old daughter $5 to wash all the lino last weekend.
    It was as momentous as diaper freedom day a few years ago.

    I don't want to buy everything for my kids without them earning it.
    Newspapers were one way of doing that.
    I'm still figuring out what to replace them with.

  • ||

    The newspapers or the kids?

  • ||

    Newspapers.
    The kids are just beginning to produce return on investment.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Nice article. It makes me wonder why I'm spending good money on the dead tree version of "Reason."

  • Fitzroy||

    "Good money". It's $20 a year. Not exactly ruining anyone.

  • Metazoan||

    Get the Kindle version!

  • Bryan||

    I wonder about this too. But I can't bring myself to cancel.

  • ||

    This is actually the real reason a lot of newspapers are in trouble: no one *wants* to read them!

  • Francis W. Porretto||

    "Here at Reason, our “News You Can Use” stories tend toward subjects like what to use as a bong when the Feds close down your neighborhood head shop, but yesterday I put our crack team of summer interns, Jesse Kline and Robby Soave, on the case..."

    What's a crack team doing with a bong?

  • ||

    Honestly. The most useful thing in the newspaper is the ads in the "sports" section for massages at "Oriental Gardens" and "Asian Paradise."
    Yeah, I can find them online, but I soooo enjoy the hypocrisy of "family" newspapers that would never exploit women running ads for massage parlors. (not that I am against massage parlors - I'm libertarian because of the principals!!! and not slippery naked 22 years olds rubbing me) Like the ads say, 2$ for the NY Times, hypocrisy is black and white - priceless.

  • ||

    1. Most people get their newspapers delivered to their houses and read them while they eat breakfast or on the way to work (if they're lucky) on the subway.

    2. Only an idiot would write a column about the internet by starting out, "Oh, ho ho ho, I tried to use the internet but, get this, I couldn't find a computer store."

    3. Daily Kos and Glenn Reynolds? Why would anyone with even half a brain spend any time at either of those websites?

    4. Perhaps you should consider spending a LOT less time on the internet and a LOT more time with dead trees in your hands.

  • FreedomLover||

    I very strongly disagree with this article! Internet can be a distraction, and hyperlinked text with lots of pictures and ads, discourages concentration and deep reading. I for one appreciate work done by Editors, long-form journalism, and simple pleasure of printed medium with its smell, texture, and sounds. Technology-induced ADHD is probably one of the leading causes of decreasing innovation and productivity.

  • ||

    Yes, you can sit down and spend three or four hours hitting all those web sites. That's the beauty of a newspaper. It's in effect a digest. The problem, of course, is that everything is filtered through the prejudices of a relatively small number of writers/editors.

  • Apocryphic||

    But you can't wipe with an iPhone!

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  • links of london||

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  • ||

    I think niche newspapers will continue to serve their intended audiences. But local general newspapers seem to be done.

  • ||

    I seriously think The Onion models most of it's satire after my local paper. It's an obnoxiously liberal paper in an otherwise conservative midwest state. The writing is incredibly amateurish and I think they programmed a cliched-human-interest-story generator for 75% of their article ideas.
    That said, I would be very sorry to see it go. I don't feel responsible, intellectually, unless I'm consistently reading stuff I disagree with. Plus, it's good for a nice laugh over breakfast.

  • John Allison||

    Concur with FreedomLover and eudaimonia and Dennis Bergendorf. A good print newspaper is an elegantly simple aggregator, a starting point, a shared experience. Screens are for grazing. Why the gleeful hate for newspapers? But as the business model declines for print, its virtues decline too.

  • zhaowei||

    Everyone should have an ideal, only the ideal of progress. pandorawill make you more active life. everyday i cherish a good sleep and arms. every day i woke up with an ideal with thepandora bracelets moon into the immense ocean.

  • ||

    I get the local sunday paper for the ad inserts. and i take a paper to the pool during summer w/o worring about the kids getting it wet.

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  • ||

    Obituaries.com has "every newspaper in the country"? Really? Because I was pretty sure New York state has more than 16 dailies.

    And that's kind of the point. If you live in a metro area, OF COURSE there are other, online sources for the news that matters to you. But for the rest of us, there is still a place for local journalism. I'm not saying it has to come in the form of paper on your doorstep. But on the other hand, if that model works in a particular market, I see no reason to bury it. We still have _some_ magazines, after all ... the same logic should apply.

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