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Ann Brenoff

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Superman, Believable; Daily Planet, Not So Much

Posted: 07/13/2012 8:36 am

I am not only of the generation who grew up reading newspapers, I also spent my entire adult life working for them. And yep, here I am, now writing for the largest news content site within 12 universes. I've transitioned, as they say.

But apparently Superman hasn't. As reported recently in the satirical newspaper The Onion, there's a disconnect for readers of the superhero comic books. They are perfectly willing to accept that the Man of Steel can throw steel girders without so much as a grunt, but what doesn't pass muster on their credibility scale is The Daily Planet -- the newspaper where Clark Kent works as a reporter.

It just sticks in their craw that a print newspaper can still be financially viable and culturally relevant. Villains from outer space, a guy in a cape lifting buses over his head and shooting metal-melting heat beams from his eyeballs -- no problem with any of that. But a newspaper that makes money? Puh-lease.

I get it. The most successful fantasies are ones rooted in a shred of reality. That, and maybe we can suspend our disbelief only so far. The number of full-time editorial jobs in America's newsrooms dropped almost 30 percent from 2001 through 2009, more than 100 newspapers shuttered their doors and even Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman and publisher of The New York Times, has predicted, "We will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD."

So, as one "lifelong reader" so astutely points out in the Onion, shouldn't Clark Kent at least have been replaced by now with a minimum-wage contract worker who doesn't get paid health benefits? Certainly at his age -- Superman debuted in 1938, which makes him 74 if I may take some poetic license here -- Clark Kent would have been set out to pasture by now. And given that he works for a newspaper, chances are his pension wouldn't amount to much.

The reality is that not even a Superman can save newspapers from their expiration date with destiny. News is delivered faster online and there's no nasty ink to dirty up your hands. The online news experience is big, largely free and unquestionably free-wheeling. But the all-inclusive nature where everyone's voice is welcomed under the big tent has grown on me. And while print newspapers may be going the way of the dinosaur, journalism itself is evolving and thriving online. Rather than mourn the old, I celebrate the new -- which may be why I understand the frustration with Superman. Seriously, can't Clark Kent at least blog?

No, I don't feel particularly nostalgic for my old profession. On a very practical level, can you imagine how fast they'd cart someone off today for proposing a business model that begins with chopping down trees thousands of miles away, burning fossil fuels to get them where they need to be, printing news that has already been published online 24 hours ago and then charging to hand-deliver this product to someone's driveway?

About the only one who benefits from this arrangement is my neighbor's Golden Retriever, who gets a treat for bringing the paper up to the front door. But let's face it -- he's no Krypto.

 

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