Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beware print's Web siren

There you are at the breakfast table, sipping coffee and munching a muffin, when something in the morning paper catches your eye.

Interest piqued, you start to read, only to discover that you're being teased to take up the article online.

I hate that.

Breakfast for me is a quiet time, and I mean that literally: no talking, no TV, no radio. Mornings set the stage for the rest of the day, and I want to ease into it with coffee and print -- newspaper, book, long letter -- not push a button to stir something electronic. There will be time for that hubbub later.

I'm not alone: "I don't want to wake up and look at a screen. I feel like, you know, as a society, we try to put everything on that same goddamn screen. And pretty soon we're going to be eating on the screen, or like [audience laughter] making love through the screen. ... why does everything have to be on a screen?"

That's Dave Eggers, founder of the independent publishing house McSweeney's, talking about San Francisco Panorama, the 328-page broadsheet newspaper he published last fall as a tribute to print. He was interviewed last week at the annual meeting of the American Society of News Editors.

Not long ago, newspaper editors seemed to have a pathological need to shout about their online operations, intent on driving traffic there when websites were novel. That often took the form of "On the Web" squibs embedded in stories that told of court documents, transcripts and data that reporters scrambled to collect so readers might have a look themselves.

These days, the touts are still in the papers, but they're more likely to encourage feedback on stories or to advertise staff blogs.

On occasion, though, they revert to the old, teasing me to a story or graphic I can see only online.

Which leaves me oh-so-cranky and let down by print.

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