The loss of print and other fine things…

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THE disappearance of things is part of modern life. Shops, pubs, newspapers – all can vanish almost overnight.

The impending closure of the Independent newspaper is just the latest example of this trend. The other day I went to buy some new running shoes, only to find a notice on the shop window saying this was now an internet-only business.

So I went out for my Sunday morning run, pounding into York still wearing old shoes that hurt my feet a bit. York Minster glowed in the early sunshine, a glorious sight to lift a middle-aged jogger’s soul – even perhaps his feet. Nearby I saw that the Viking Loom had shut, a shop selling wool and stuff (my knowledge of this establishment is second-hand). After that I ran down Stonegate and past the now empty Mulberry Hall, a shop selling china and stuff.

What a sad sight – even though I hardly ever went in there, fine china being beyond my reach and my interest. I liked the kitchen shop, although again it was expensive. Still, I was saddened to see the place shut up and empty.

A little later, my weary feet took me up Micklegate, passing a fair number of closed shops, although some are waiting revival, including a planned pub from BrewDog, brewers of very splendid bottled beers (the consumption of which makes a Sunday morning run all the more important).

Back home, the sweat salting my skin, I sit down to write this blog, thoughts of gone things filling my mind. The Independent is ending print publication and going online-only, after selling its very good tabloid i-newspaper to Johnston Press, owners of the Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post.

Now this makes me sad because I like newspapers, yet I didn’t buy the Independent all that often. So as with Mulberry Hall, I am mourning the passing of something I didn’t bother to support.

I don’t feel guilty about all that unbought fine china, but the copies of the Independent I didn’t get round to buying do lie heavy on my soul. It’s a good newspaper, but there are only so many pages of newsprint one pair of eyes can skim and scan.

Most weeks I only buy two newspapers, a Saturday Guardian and the Observer on a Sunday. The rest of the week my smart-phone keeps me in touch with what’s in the papers and being reported on the BBC.

The crumbling of the Independent is only the start of it, sadly. All traditional media have been hit by the digital tsunami – digital news being cheaper to supply than printed news.

The Guardian is also struggling, with sales of the newspaper slipping while use of the website rises all the time; it has plenty of readers but few of them pay for the privilege (including me, Monday to Friday).

So are newspapers dead as long prophesised or just moving into digital versions of themselves; and can any newspaper boss work out a decent way to make a living from the internet?

Other print newspapers will fall, and that will be sad to readers who like the rustle of newsprint – but the printed word is expensive to produce. Yet a good newspaper is more than words on print; it is a collaboration between bright, competitive and sometimes argumentative people; it is the sum of its awkward, quarrelsome parts; it is the reach of its long and intrusive roots; oh, it is many things, and maybe eventually the digital world will capture all that and keep newspapers alive in a different way.

Maybe one day.

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