My PM Blues
On Breaking a Longtime Evening Habit
By Edward Shanahan
The Daily Hampshire Gazette arrived at 6:05 this morning and while I understand why that happened, it certainly represents a change in my routine and probably that of thousands of other readers in Northampton and surrounding towns and villages.
It was pleasant to sit down when most of the day-time activities had wound down - say around 6 in the evening – and take a spin through the paper, not because I needed to know what was going on in the world beyond this small city, but to catch up on local events, announcements, features and the general overview of what could be gathered and presented about life in the communities that make up this one discrete piece of geography on one particular day.
I realize that afternoon newspapers, once dominant in an earlier time in our lives, are no longer viewed as relevant or sufficiently timely as people’s work and family schedules become more complicated.
It is necessary to capture the readers’ attention early in the day before they become distracted and find they have little time to spare at the end of the day.
I get it. Afternoon newspapers are dinosaurs that appeal mainly to those in their 60s, 70s, and beyond, who are living in the past and find it hard to adjust to the faster pace of a more contemporary time. The financial pressures are great on newspaper companies to be more competitive, to offer more bang for the buck to advertisers by arriving at homes and stores very early in the day and thus becoming more like virtually every other newspaper. I understand completely.
But, on the other hand, there is no shortage of a.m. newspapers: for example, available to me at Bird’s in Florence, besides the new morning Gazette, I can find the New York Times, Boston Globe, Springfield Republican, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Berkshire Eagle, Greenfield Recorder, Boston Herald, NY Daily News, and NY Post, just to identify the most obvious. Too many choices.
And also in the morning, I can go on-line and read the Washington Post, which I sometimes do, as well as a vast selection of other Internet news sources.
Early morning news arrives on local radio station WHMP, and by way of Channels 3, 22 and 40, and then on the three network morning shows, plus the cable channels CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and C-Span, although by 9 a.m. most of us will have overdosed on news, information, titillation and entertainment. And then during the rest of the day there is a media devoted on talk, opinion, misinformation, and general clamor that can dull the senses and damage the brain cells.
So, the choices are beyond abundant as we struggle each day to make our way toward its conclusion through a non-stop cacophony of sound bites and images, until blessedly we allow ourselves to go to bed, if only because we need to escape the media.
That is why I savored that quiet time in the late afternoon and early evening with an old friend that did not have any competitors for my attention and with whom I could spend as much time or as little as I chose.
In the end, the afternoon newspaper’s strength could be its difference; it was not like all the others relentlessly calling attention to itself for our time. In the end, an afternoon newspaper like the Gazette was unique because it was uncommon, not part of the teeming crowd of news sources. And it is that uniqueness I, as a reader, will miss.
But then, call me old fashioned. I don’t mind.
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