March 10, 2017

The Way It Is

The Way It Is

The Wall Street Journal is down to two sections. The New York Times (my hometown paper) long ago gave up its vaunted Metro Section and moved its local New York City coverage into the main first section of the paper. The relative weightiness of our morning newspapers seems to have shrunk in direct proportion to the exorbitant cost and exotica-quotient of our morning coffee.

Of course, the Journal and the Times, and print journalism in general, are casualties resulting from the profound shift in the way we now get our news. Twitter, anyone? The explosion of websites, apps, social media channels, and news aggregators, not to mention the seemingly infinite number of cable, satellite and radio channels broadcasting 24-7 to feed our insatiable appetite for news, have forever changed the way we keep tabs on our world. It’s a virtual onslaught.

It’s no longer enough to just catch up on the headlines over our morning wake-me-up before heading to work with ink on our fingers. Now we have less and less ink on our fingers, period. I personally have switched from the paper-and-ink format to reading my usual four newspapers a day, all on my iPad. The number of newspapers published in the U.S. dropped from 1,730 to 1,382 – 20 percent – between 1981 and 2011 (thank you, Newspaper publishers are driving some of this shift themselves, downsizing their expensive-to-produce print editions as they expand their online and video formats. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Many of the things we publish at Marcum, be they tax flashes, industry newsletters, internal announcements and even our annual holiday card, are delivered electronically, not with paper and a stamp as in the past.

On the plus side of this seismic change is that it’s easier to keep up with breaking developments throughout the day (and night), whether it’s the latest you’ll-never-believe-this moment from the Trump Administration, or the opening price of Snap Inc. stock. On the minus side is that the sheer volume of news being pushed out onto our tablets and phones and Outlook/Gmail accounts (pick your poison) is often overwhelming. And all-consuming. It’s practically impossible to escape. When’s the last time you went to a restaurant that didn’t have a TV blaring in the dining room?

The onus to be a smart news consumer keeps getting heavier. And now we need to decipher “real news” from “fake news.” Of course, one person’s fake news may be another’s real McCoy.

It’s hard not to be wistful for the days when there were three network news broadcasters and your morning headlines came with the milk on your front stoop. That may seem quaint to the Millennials, but it wasn’t actually all that long ago that that’s the way it was. Where’s Walter Cronkite when you need him?