As a former newspaper journalist, my morning and Sunday newspapers have been a lifelong addiction. But alas, now I have to say goodbye to my last newspaper subscription as this habit has finally become an unsustainable and completely unnecessary indulgence.
Quite simply, paying more than R1 000 a year just doesn’t make sense for a daily newspaper that sometimes arrives at my door and sometimes doesn’t; that unfolds as a soggy mess in the rainy season. Its Sunday equivalent has become entirely predictable in its content. Which, more often than not, results in an apology the following week for being wrong.
Newspapers the world over are losing subscribers right, left and centre, mostly because their content is either unreliable, late, old news or designed to be controversial enough to attract readers. Trouble is, readers are getting tired of badly researched stories, fake news, one-sided commentaries. Not to mention grammar that defies all logic.
Fewer and fewer untrained and unskilled journalists are being relied upon by their cash-strapped, paranoid, bosses, to produce news for the sake of producing news with the hope that somehow in the future readers will come flocking back by some quite incredible miracle.
The online environment is quicker, cheaper and diverse enough for one to be able to separate the truth from fake news quickly and efficiently, and has exacerbated the plight of newspapers.
Meanwhile, my addiction to news is being well fed for hours every day by the likes of News24, BBC, the New York Times online, BizNews.com, the Daily Maverick, BusinessLive…
In South Africa there are still a few good newspapers – the Mail & Guardian being one worth mentioning. Trouble is it costs an arm and a leg – out of the reach of many a pensioner not to mention an increasingly impoverished middle class.
But it was not only the cost of newspapers that has finally put me off them but the fact that I suddenly realised my Sunday newspaper, which for years I could count on to keep me enthralled for hours, only managed to keep me occupied for no more than 15 minutes at best as I cherry-picked the only stories worth reading.
Meanwhile, my addiction to news is being well fed for hours every day by the likes of News24, BBC, the New York Times online, BizNews.com, the Daily Maverick, BusinessLive and a host of other outstanding online resources which are free, up to the point of my wanting to download something in depth and for which I am happy to pay.
Of course, something else that has put me off newspapers is the depressing transition of the once famous Argus group into the money-obsessive, asset-stripping monster called Independent News & Media under the greedy grip of Tony O’Reilly and now a slow degeneration into an egoistic platform for Iqbal Survé.
There are many journalists in the newspaper industry that will not like what I am saying. Who think I am being some sort of traitor to keep harping on about how the printed newspaper to news dissemination is like the Beta videotape to TV storage. But, the fact is that as an ardent newspaperman, with ink still coursing through my veins, I have finally given up the battle against my conscience and kicked my last, expensive newspaper subscription renewal into touch.
It’s a sad day for me. But I will get over it.