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A Plain shame

4/11/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

If you are a Cleveland Plain Dealer (PD) subscriber, you’re in for a change. Starting sometime this summer, the paper will only be delivered three times a week, with the details still to be announced. Maybe it will be delivered Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Or Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Or maybe they’ll just deliver the same paper three times Saturday. I’m sure they’ll let us know.

The 171-year-old newspaper will still be printed every day, and if you live in, say, a Walgreens, you might still get daily delivery. But while newsstands will still get their daily copies, home subscribers will have to make due with an electronic version on nondelivery days. The digital version will be just like the newsprint version, supposedly, except your dog won’t bark upon its arrival.

Color this PD subscriber less than thrilled.

In our household — and I suspect in many others — the primary time to read the newspaper is during breakfast, those precious seconds before school/work/going back to bed. It’s not a time for decorum. Milk will be spilled. Hands full of jelly will reach for things. Syrup will — just what were you thinking having pancakes on a school day?

A glob of Smucker’s jam falling on the comics section is no reason for anguish, unless the comics are being read on a tablet or smartphone. Then the pain is something not even Mary Worth can make better.

The PD’s decision to stop daily distribution to home subscribers seems counterintuitive. We are the ones who have shown a willingness to pay upfront for their wares. Did we come off as too needy? “They want their paper where? On their porch? Yeah, they’d like that, wouldn’t they!”

I feel bad for the carriers. My heart goes out to those in the PD newsroom who will lose their jobs due to the changes. (According to news reports, the PD’s owner, Advance Publications, will announce layoffs this summer.) And I’m sorry for the PD subscribers without Web access — many of them seniors — who find comfort in holding in their hands the news of the day, no matter how lousy it is.

But this is the future. If you’re looking for Pluto and don’t have the ’net, you’d best have a telescope. (Not that I condone using a telescope to view Terry Pluto’s column on a neighbor’s computer screen. That’s likely illegal.)

I’m from a newspaper family. My grandfather supervised the Beacon Journal paperboys for 30 years. Growing up, we always had the Beacon and Plain Dealer delivered to our house, and even, for a short while, USA Today. We’d make Sunday morning trips to Fairlawn News Exchange to pick up the Times. If trees ever take over the world, our family will have a lot to answer for.

The newspaper business has to adapt to the times and prepare for the future. I understand that. But what is happening to the Plain Dealer is not good for anyone, except maybe the number crunchers at Advance Publications and the makers of jelly-resistant tablets.

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