Last week I thought long and hard about writing a post on our former arch-nemesis Gregg Easterbrook — whom we have lambasted in this space for everything from self-righteous moralizing to being bad at science. I’ve continued to read Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback column throughout all of these episodes, because despite his flaws, he does offer a unique approach to sports and is quite often correct about things like the mendacity of Brett Favre and the fraidy-cat play calling of NFL coaches.
That was what I was going to say. Now I’m going to say something different.
Now I’m going to say that Gregg Easterbrook has hatched, from deep inside the inky recesses of his brain pan, the single most stupidest idea for saving the newspaper industry in the history of the entire universe. If there were a contest in which everybody in America were asked to come up with the dumbest, most intellectually baffling, immediately recognizably moronic idea they could, and then those ideas were cast into a great heap so that they could be weighed as one unit, it is indisputable scientific fact that it would represent only a small fraction of Gregg Easterbrook’s proposition.
If you opened the door to a room with this idea inside of it, the smell alone would erase your entire brain.
Consider yourselves warned:
Can technology save newsprint? Here is the advance TMQ is hoping for: a print-cost breakthrough that allows you to print the newspaper yourself at home, eliminating delivery. Xerox recently rolled out a new generation of printers that use something called “solid ink” to cut the cost of color. Xerox’s product is intended for the office market, where most printing occurs, but perhaps is an indicator there will be a cost breakthrough in home printing.
“Huhhhh-GUH. Huuuhhhhhhhhhh-guh. HUUUUUHHHHHHHHHH-GUHHH.”
That’s the sound of my disbelief falling off its suspension.
Already home printers are themselves cheap, though the ink is expensive. If “solid ink” or some other improvement cuts the price, here’s what a future newspaper economy might look like: You subscribe, and each morning at whatever time you select, the newspaper transmits itself to your advanced printer, including, of course, the very latest news to that moment. Even with you paying for the ink and paper, that might cost less than $63 a month, since the newspaper subscription price — now basically a licensing fee — would go way down. You could set your printer to produce only the parts of the paper you actually read, reducing resource waste. A category of entry-level employment, newspaper delivery — once done by teens on bicycles, now often done by adults using cars — would be eliminated. But that’s a lot better than all newspaper-related jobs being eliminated!
If there were only some platform that would deliver me the news I need without forcing me to subscribe to a printed, delivered newspaper. Perhaps some way to make use of these computers and their blazing fast rates of information transfer. Oooooh, I’ve got it. Someone should establish a digital network of some sort in which news stories can be hosted and transmitted. Then we can feed that information directly into the brains of cockatoos — either through USB or ethernet ports. The cockatoos can then read us the news as we prepare to walk to work the wrong way around the entire Earth.
For all our grousing about what appears in the paper, right now American newspapers as a group are the very best they have ever been. Subscribe, or patronize the local newsbox. You will be sorry if the newspaper industry fades away. And don’t say, “I’ll just use the Internet for news.” The vast majority of the news presented on the Internet originates as a newspaper story.
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I’m sorry. My brain just flipped inside out for a second there. What were we talking about? The Internet?