Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking Sunday Paper

Not so long ago, it would take me all morning to read through my hometown Sunday morning newspaper. There were sections upon sections, various inserts, pullouts, a television booklet, and the occasional freebie of laundry detergent or breakfast cereal enclosed inside the bursting plastic wrapper.

Nowadays, it takes me less than an hour to finish off the entire paper, including advertisements. Those, it seems, still abound.

But what about the content of the newspaper itself? Sections have either folded together or completely disappeared. There used to be a "Home" section for articles on houses and furnishings, and a separate section called "Homescape," that covered gardening, plants, herbs, and landscaping. Now the two sections are combined into a slender shadow of their former selves, with the meager real estate listings tossed in for good measure.

The book section at one time was a full sized pullout, the size of a small tabloid newspaper in itself. It carried numerous book reviews, the NY Times bestseller lists numbered from 1-15 with descriptions of the books, local best sellers, schedules for book signings, articles for and by authors. I would spend more time back then with the book section than I do now with the entire Sunday paper. Today, the book section has been reduced to the top corner of one page somewhere in a renamed section, consisting of one list of bestsellers, numbered a whopping 1-5, titles only.

Why bother?

The business and opinion sections, once full-sized sections bursting with information, are now folded into a sparse couple of pages within other parts of the newspaper. Watered down is the kindest way to describe their presentation. However, this minor effort is better than that exerted on the TV guide, which mysteriously vanished completely a few months back, without notice or fanfare.

Last Sunday, in full page advertisements and inserts, the news flash appeared that the missing TV guide was about to make a comeback. "Back by popular demand!" the headline trumpeted. Intrigued, I read on. Articles on new television shows, complete listings, interviews, cover stories, movie guides, all coming back!--um, for a small fee.

Yes, subscribers must now pay a second newspaper bill in order to receive the TV guide that had been included with the Sunday edition for all those many years before, and it's a wonderful favor that the paper's big shots are accommodating our "demand." I had to laugh. How stupid do we newspaper readers appear to the publishing powers-that-be?

Maybe they feel that, if we're crazy enough to still be paying for the newspaper, we'll take it to the next level and spring for the TV guide, too. However, I didn't notice any advertisements for the ever-popular TV guide in this morning's newspaper. Perhaps during the past week, the newspaper got more of a reader response than they bargained for--and it probably didn't involve paying extra for the TV guide.