The Solomon Scandals is a little like a novel that a 19th century writer might have written on whaling. In some ways it’s a tribute to a vanishing way of life—to the print culture as manifested in daily journalism. No, paper books are not disappearing tomorrow. But newspapers of a certain size are on the Net-endangered list.
Even without the Internet, newspapers would be declining or at least not growing as quickly as before, given how out of touch so many of them can be at times with their readers. Still, the Net has sped up the inevitable, complete with The Trash Factor (“trash” in the trashroom sense, not necessarily the tabloid one).
The Washington Telegram, the newspaper in The Solomon Scandals, is imaginary. But I began Scandals more than three decades ago, not that many years after I left the Lorain Journal, located in the factory town near Cleveland, and I can still remember the smell of the melting lead. Today the Journal doesn’t run presses but rather farms out printing to another member of the same chain. How long until it goes all-digital? The latest paper to announce all-digital plans is the Ann Arbor Daily News (see video below).
Actually I won’t miss newsprint and the old ways—I always was a bit klutzy around paste pots and copy spikes, and I hated to smudge up my hands when I read off the pulped wood. Nor, incidentally, would I enjoy the prospect of whaling returning as a major industry, given the cruelty inflicted on the hunted. What should be and will be missed, in the case of newspapers, is the old-time advertising revenue.