I recently had coffee and went to a movie with a longtime friend. He lives in Chapel Hill, and I live in Raleigh. So we met in Durham.
It was what former New York Times writer Jennifer 8. Lee would call a “man date.” Part of the conversation went like this:
Him: “Did I tell you that we canceled our subscription to The News & Observer?”
Me: “No, really? Why?”
Him: “The main reason is they didn’t deliver it for five straight days, so I’d had enough.”
Me: “Wow. That’s pretty bad. Did you call to complain?”
Him: “Yeah. The first day, I did the automated complaint. When the paper didn’t come the next day, I insisted on talking to a person. I did get someone on the phone, but still no paper. So I canceled.”
Me: “How will you get your news?”
Him: “We started getting the Sunday New York Times.”
Me: “What about local news?”
Him: “We still get the Chapel Hill News, and I pick up The Carrboro Citizen. I set up an RSS feed from other sources, and I read the Chapelboro site from WCHL.”
Me: “So you feel like you know what’s going on?”
Him: “Yeah, and to be honest, I wasn’t getting local news in the N&O as much as I used to anyway.”
I share this story as another example of how newspapers are hurting themselves. The self-inflicted wounds include questionable business decisions and a lack of vision for the shift of advertising away from print. But the failure to carry out the basic function of a newspaper — to provide news of interest and to deliver it to the driveways of paying customers — is practically suicidal.