I was always proud that The Toronto Star had held its own against the tide — until last week. No, I’m not talking about the newspaper’s ongoing war against embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford, but rather, the fact that its once-free website now only gives 10 for free, then you must subscribe.
The Star is only following in the footsteps of its compatriot Canadian dailies: the Globe and Mail and the National Post made the switch months ago, with international papers starting the trend as early as 2003. When the Internet first hit it big, traditional media outlets feverishly sought an online presence, freely posting all content to maintain relevancy. But now, newspapers are cutting costs, staff — or publishing, period — in an effort to stem the bloodshed of lack of revenue.
The publishers of the Globe and Mail also hit a type of pay wall this week. Come October, the paper will no longer be delivered to some northern areas of British Columbia, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. The Globe’s publisher, on CBC’s Cross Country Checkup this Sunday, said that the decision wasn’t a matter of the paper not making any money — but of losing money, not to mention that delivery was often delayed due to weather and other factors.
There’s a certain segment of the population that relishes the physical experience of a newspaper. But, for an ever-increasing majority, relishing your paper over morning coffee, inhaling that unmistakable inky odour and clipping interesting articles is unnecessary when you can simply point and click online instead.
From the cost of newsprint to advertising, to home delivery, newspapers are an expensive business. While digital subscriptions are cheaper, according to the experts on Cross Country Checkup, the economies of scale aren’t balancing the books for lost advertisers in the hard copy. People are understandably resistant to paying for what they have freely accessed for so long. And, in the case of large daily papers, unless you are a devotee of a particular writer or political view, there are still many outlets willing to give away the news of the day for free. (Smaller community papers such as this one, while doubtlessly facing challenges, remain somewhat insulated from this type of competition.)
Interestingly, the media experts interviewed on the radio show were unsure of what the future offered for newspapers; few could envision a world without physical newspapers. This was in stark contrast to the laymen who called in: A lawyer from Kingston, for example, said he had far greater reach since starting a Youtube channel for his office than he ever did advertising in his local daily papers. He also said that his youngest employees had never read a newspaper, preferring to get their news elsewhere (if anywhere).
Call me an expert — or maybe a romantic or curmudgeon — for I can’t really envision a world without actual newspapers. At least not yet. For starters, it’s headache-inducing to read long articles on a tiny smartphone screen. But I believe there is a particular value to reading a newspaper on paper.
For all the “sharing” the Internet allows, it still doesn’t mimic the communal aspect of an actual newspaper; the ease of passing sections, the discussion which results from reading the same stories, the thrill of unexpectedly seeing a loved one’s photo (and clipping it out to save). There will always be people who love newspapers, and, until the digital world can truly replicate this experience, newsprint will survive. It may not be our only source of news, or the omnipotent record of our lives, but it will live.
Coincidentally, I did purchase a digital subscription to the New York Times this week. It offers such a wealth of lifestyle information that rationing out my 10 free columns a month was heartbreaking. I’m a big fan of the Recipes for Health feature, which includes easy, delicious recipes such as this one.
Soft Tacos With Chicken and Tomato-Corn Salsa
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 ear of corn, steamed for five minutes
1 pound ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 to 3 jalapeño peppers (to taste), seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. lime juice
Salt to taste
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Place chopped onion in a small bowl, and cover with cold water. Let rest for five minutes, then rinse with cold water. Drain on paper towels. Cut the kernels off the cob.
Toss together tomatoes, chilies, cilantro, onion and steamed corn. Season with salt, and add 1 tbsp. lime juice. Place chicken in a bowl, and season with remaining lime juice and salt.
Wrap tortillas in foil, and heat in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Top each with shredded chicken, a generous spoonful of salsa, and some cheese. Serves four.