Sunday, February 5, 2012

what price the truth?

A week or two [perhaps 2 point 66 weeks ago] I received a survey from the Herald Sun about that fast approaching time when newspapers are offered online only.

It must have been a mighty powerful survey, cos it got me thinking.

Why do people buy newspapers? [Assuming people do still buy them.]

The sound of racecallers and racing experts and scratchings and tote odds and dividend announcements provided a constant soundtrack to my childhood. Even today there is little that sets my teeth on edge like horseracing radio - apart from cricket, of course.
But I did not set out to complain about how wrong it is to constantly silence children, or how antisocial to cut anyone off in the middle of a sentence because “the race is on”, or even to be told by some grumps to sit still while absolutely nothing is happening during a test match; what I really wonder is how many people buy the Herald Sun for the racing page?

Back in the day, some of my relos bought the Truth for the racing page. The Truth was a twice a week, diehard remnant of the “yellow press”. At the turn of the last century it had played its part in “keeping the bastards honest”, using sensationalism as a tool.
Wikipedia reminds me that in 1975 a Truth headline read “Snedden died on the job”. Billy Snedden had been in parliament for yonks and was at one time the leader of the Liberal party. Listening to parliament was a delight when he was Speaker in the House, because he had a very quick wit.
The Truth reported Snedden had died having intercourse in a hotel room– why else would he be found wearing a condom? – but most people I knew thought how wonderful that a politician be so practical. But I digress again…

If people in another country bought Playboy “for the articles”, it was a truth universally acknowledged that people bought the Truth for the racing pages.

I’m not sure the [near naked] “page 3 girl” had much to do with my adult preferences, as I can’t even remember if the girls wore a bikini top or simply had their modesty protected by a black strip of ink covering their nipples.

My grandmother always enjoyed reading aloud from the Heartbalm column, which featured cries for help from the Truth’s resident agony aunt. There were letters from homosexuals suffering silently in an inhospitable world, men who feared they would fall victim to young nymphomaniacs and young girls who feared the unsettling attentions of family “uncles”, making it obvious everyone read the Truth [after first removing the racing page for later reference].

Asides aside, the survey tested my awareness that hard copies of newspapers will soon disappear and people will have no choice but to go online for their “news”. The survey also tested which of a number of pricing options and packages would be acceptable to me when I took out an online subscription.

So, I told ‘em they were dreaming.

I’m paralysed by a lack of computer savvy, scared of buying the wrong tablet, don’t get the download app thing at all and nobody cares enough about my custom to provide practical advice. In short, they run the risk of meeting some price inelasticity amongst at least some baby boomers or their parent generation.

In any case, I don’t buy papers for the racing page or even for the paid product placements, the politics as sport reporting or the sell-air-brities as real people;  I buy newspapers in case I can’t sleep on the train. There must be something better I can do with my time.


  1. For awhile I had a subscription to the New York Times but then it got to be too expensive for me to keep up. If I'd the money, I would have subscriptions to 3 or 4 papers.
    To me, there is nothing like sitting down with coffee and the newspaper in the morning.

  2. Many, many years ago i used to buy the Truth for the racing page and the delights of page 3. I've given up punting and the delights of page 3 for the real thing, only buy the herald sun on wednesday for the tv guide the rest is consigned to the recycle bin, so there's no chance i'll subscribe to any online newspaper :-).

  3. Newspapers are only good for wrapping up the vegie peelings or lining the bottom of the budgie cage.
    Oh, and for feeding the wormies in the compost bin.
    They lurve the muckracking paper & ink!

    Billy popped his clogs (and possibly the bucolic nature of his mistress) in 1987.

  4. Hi Rubye, many years ago in Melbourne there was a newsagency which stocked all sorts of imported goodies, including the NY Times literary supplement. I learnt a great deal about the world simply from reading those reviews. Alas, most of the pulp available here today is just pulp. So we sort of have a shared disappointment for pleasures past.

    Windsmoke, you just might have to look for your TV listings online - I doubt the TV networks will charge for the info.

  5. Hi Jayne. A worm farm sounds like a good idea. As for the date of Billy's demise, how slack am I? Relying on Wikipedia and then when the info is right for a change, not even reading it properly! While I do remember events like this I'm finding it increasingly difficult to place them in any kind of chronological order beyond "then". And I'll even make a public confession - I have no idea where I was or what I was doing when Kennedy was assassinated.

  6. I mostly read news online now, but I do prefer a a proper paper. Truth was an appalling paper, but I would read it whenever I could get my hands on it.

  7. I'm reading news online myself from time to time but, of course, at the moment this is free. However, there's nothing like a hard copy of any written document, and I can't imagine doing a crossword "online".
    When I read the Truth it was just another outlet for compulsive reading. I don't remember finding gossip titillating, but do remember being intrigued by the highly dramatic nature of newsbeat, divorce court and other salacious infotainments.

  8. I never read a News Paper, I watch the news on TV and that's enough misery !!

  9. I used to incorporate buying the paper with my morning walk but now Bill prefers to read it online so I save over $300 a year and I can walk in the forest instead of to the shop. I do miss the crosswords but I buy the c/w books they last me ages.

  10. Hi Gattina, misery is exactly the right word!

    Hello Diane, not only do you get to walk in the forest, but you are helping to save one.

  11. And they make fine firestarters once you've finished reading them ...

  12. Guess that would be a constructive way to deal with the day's burning issues...