Sunday, May 30, 2010

Half the news for ... well, we're not sure

Here's a piece of news I actually got, for the first time, from the dead-trees edition that lands in the driveway three times a week:

The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News soon will be available for premium home-delivery in some areas by independent newspaper carriers on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, making home delivery available all seven days. The service is expected to start in about a month in limited locations in metro Detroit and will expand over time.

It's been processed by the Freep machine (note the carefully unsplit "soon will be" and the preposterous hyphen in "premium home-delivery"), but the careful reader will shortly be reminded that there's a good reason to keep the publisher from writing for the newspages. Still, it's a big deal. It's been a little over a year since the local papers went to the three-day delivery model, and the brief attempt at a startup replacement last November didn't even get far enough off the ground to make an entertaining explosion when it crashed. How's this idea going to work?

The article suggests it's something like this: If there's an interested independent contractor in your area, the Freep and/or the News will sell the papers to the contractor, who will then work out the price, delivery time and other such details out with you, the readers. My first guess is that we'll work out the cost much like the local and I work out the cost of a pint: they point to the blackboard, and I pay it. A reporter, you'd like to think, would at least have tried for a hairball estimate of the likely price.

That's a potential problem, though not necessarily the problem. Two bucks for a thin two-section* paper that arrives in the afternoon -- no. Buck and a half for one we can read or take in in the morning, maybe. The bigger issue for me is that over the past year and a half, the Freep has done an outstanding job of convincing me that, fond as I am (and have been for some decades now) of reading a newspaper or two or three** in print every day, I really don't need to read this one. It's frenetically overdesigned, poorly written and carelessly processed, relentlessly tabloid, blithely indifferent to the outside world, and convinced for some ungodly reason that I will find the world a better place because Mitch Albom shares in the conventional wisdom of the bluff little guy. No, no, no, no and no, respectively.

Five years ago, I probably would have described myself as addicted to newsprint. Apparently that's not the case. I'm going to have to be won back.

* The original plan was for a single-section paper on nondelivery days; sports got a permanent standalone section during the NHL playoffs last year.
** Bonus points -- looking at you there, Ed -- for readers who can name the newsstand at Notting Hill Gate. When we ran the London buro, we used to stop there first thing after breakfast for a balanced news diet: Sun and Grauniad.


Anonymous Ed Latham said...

Er, um, er... no bonus points for me this time! (it's not on the Piccadilly line, that's the problem).

One thing I think I'd like about the Freep, though: the no-jumps policy. Just realised that, in the course of a hectic Saturday night, we managed to leave five columns of jump on page 9 standing long after the opening paragraphs of the story had been swept off the front page by the pace of events. Now, *that* could never happen at the Detroit Free Press.

7:12 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger fev said...

It's sort of like a transformer malfunction: stories jump into space and never return, and jumps appear out of nowhere.

I think the no-jump front _can_ work (for my money, Fort Worth is probly the best US example). The problem is that doing it well is really labor-intensive, and when you're just end-cutting thumbsuckers (like today), it shows.

9:09 AM, May 31, 2010  

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