Paperless News

When I called the San Francisco Chronicle last Monday with some delivery fact-finding I promised to do for our apartment property management, I had a little surprise. The business office informed me I was no longer a Chronicle subscriber.

“Did you put in a stop order recently”, they asked. “Well, no”, I answered, “though I didn’t get a paper this morning …”

It turned out that they finally processed a “please cancel” request I typed into a 40-character text box on a web form back when I was having severe problems with paper deliveries. That was last November. Ironically, service had been excellent ever since (I suspect they replaced the delivery person), so I’d figured on just forgetting it.

Given this evidence that it can actually take two months to cancel when you really want to, I told them, “OK, that’s fine … I remember that now, back in November. Let’s let it ride and leave me in canceled status. To tell you the truth, managing my newspaper subscription was just getting to be too high-maintenance.”

The gal I talked to was very pleasant and understanding. I think they’ve heard all this before. She did not sound too surprised.

I’m partially prepared for this, though I do miss my morning paper. Like almost all papers, the Chronicle does have SFGate.com, a web edition, but it’s cluttered and poorly organized. I’m getting most of my news from BBC.co.uk, which (to my mind) gives better North American coverage than our West Coast newsprint flagship, the Chronicle. Needless to say, BBC gives vastly superior international coverage too.

For my all-important comics page, I have all my favorite strips bookmarked and read them on the web. For Sudoku, I have my own PC apps.

Gone are the weekly trips to the recycling bin with 25 pounds of newsprint (mainly advertising inserts). Gone are the occasional missing sections. Gone are the occasional stolen Sunday papers which disappear from my front porch if I don’t get them by 7AM. Gone are the endless sessions on the web arranging vacation stops (which don’t work anyway) and filing for credit on missed deliveries.

It always galled me, anyway, how thoroughly deference to advertisers trumped news presentation: the two-page Macy’s underwear ads in the middle of the front section, the folded tear-outs disguising the Sunday funnies as automotive tire ads, and the monstrous shards of color advertising circulars that comprised 2/3 of the weight of the Sunday edition.

And I save about $360 a year. We’ve all seen the predictions that the internet would prove to be the last straw for struggling newspapers. Personally, I would probably have been one of the last holdouts if delivery hadn’t been such a hassle

You know, I think I can live with this just fine!

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