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EDITORIAL: Electronic Newspapers are a Greener Way to Communicate an Independent Message


For a 35 year old, I am hopelessly old-fashioned. I prefer to find something that I like and stick with it. I am curious enough to learn it inside out, but am still sometimes resistant to change. As such, modern technology can be frustrating.

I'm not always in the mood to learn the updated versions for the dozens of software applications my life requires. I was raised to treat belongings as permanent and not disposable, so I'm hesitant to upgrade a cell phone or laptop, just because something newer comes along.

I will also admit that it took me a while to get comfortable with electronic media. On the one hand, streaming video was a godsend. Having access to stored files that you could play anytime from any computer was a revolutionary convenience when it replaced the process of copying and bicycling back and forth tapes and discs.

Mailing or even scanning developed photos was a royal pain, when compared to uploading pictures and emailing them to family and friends or even easier yet, posting them to a social networking site. I still have a turntable and plenty of vinyl, but I love the convenience of my IPOD, so I'll call that a wash.

However, I wasn't quite as welcoming when it came to digital reading. I am an avid book collector. My wife and I have a massive library of early edition Prousts, Steinbecks, Hemingways, Bellows, Fitzgeralds, and Nabokovs. I love the pulpy smell of a book, the grainy texture of quality stock, the lost art of thoughtful typeset.

I began reading newspapers online out of necessity in 2004, when I moved into a neighborhood where New York Times delivery was unavailable. I was predictably resistant, not to mention scared to death that I'd spill my coffee and fry a hard drive, but I liked reading Paul Krugman enough to press on.

Once I got used to it, I began to embrace the change. I make a conscious effort to monitor my family's environmental footprint, and though we're not fanatical, we take the time to consistently minimize waste. So I realized quickly that an electronic newspaper was a green innovation.

Given, my laptop is powered by energy from a carbon spewing, coal-fired power plant, but just think about what kind of resources are wasted on newspapers. Trees are cut down and chemically treated to make mountains of paper. Big, carbon pumping trucks then deliver the wholesale paper, so that they can be chemically emblazoned with print.

More trucks then carry those papers to distributors who drive them to people's homes. Once read, hopefully some of it is recycled, and then tons of used paper products end up in landfills and incinerators. The process is repeated daily.

I don't want to be a hypocrite. I'm not getting a Kindle or an Ipad. My books will still be hardbound and though I've switched to online versions of many magazines, I still can't get off my glossy of Rolling Stone. Obviously, I also work for an online newspaper, but that's something I had to square with myself and I still pray my fist novel will get published before real books disappear altogether.

I'm just trying to make the point that newspapers are destined to make the complete conversion and probably ahead of the curve. Nearly every paper has an online edition, though most are mere electronic versions of their print copy. The Bradenton Times is one of the few daily newspaper publications that is created to be an online entity, and we like to think that our content reflects that.

It is still no secret that many people prefer a newspaper they can touch, perhaps (sadly) because most daily newspaper readers tend to be senior citizens and that tradition is further ingrained. Furthermore, advertisers are still reluctant to make a major shift, preferring to buy ads they can see and touch, rather than highly trackable electronic ads.

While there is no way of knowing which delivered papers get opened, let alone read, it can easily be determined which ads are viewed and who goes a step further and visits a vendor's sight. Ironically, newspapers and magazines had the same trepidations with TV, worrying that a person could miss their spot, while going to the icebox, while a magazine article lingered until it was thrown away.

I'm sure similar misgivings will again pass, because advertisers go where the readers are. As computers, phones, and entertainment devices continue to merge into singular units, the possibilities to customize targeted advertising grow immensely, but the readers have real incentive to keep moving toward electronic copy.

Many people have dumped the bottled water in favor of stainless reusable ones and a good filter system, noting the massive footprint of trucking bottles of non-biodegradable plastic all over the country. I see more and more canvas bags at the grocery store and I'm finally starting to see more compacts and less S.U.V.'s.

So my ask this week is to think about your newspaper. Going electronic is a great way to reduce your footprint, whether it's our publication or another. Also, consider the fact that the drastically reduced overhead of publishing an online newspaper not only allows them to provide it without a subscription cost, but they can be more discriminate about who advertises, while remaining uninfluenced by the businesses that pay their bills.

There are a lot of good papers out there, but more and more of them are continuing to cut costs at the expense of quality content. You'll continue to see more syndicated columnists because it's cheaper to use the corporate parent's big city staff, then to pay the salary and benefits of a local scribe. You'll see less editorials and more letters, because the readers who write in don't get paid. And you'll see less of a stomach for the kind of straight talk, no-holds barred reporting that sometimes ruffles the feathers of those with biggest purses. Is that really worth melting the polar ice caps for?


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