I always imagined that I’d be a subscriber to a print edition of my daily newspaper long after it passed from normal to weird to quaint. I don’t have milk or ice delivered, nor did I use cloth diapers, but the experience of retrieving the morning paper from my front steps and the feel of the paper in my hands as I read it always seemed far superior to the pale glow of my computer screen. I thought our love would last forever; I certainly didn’t stray.
My local paper, desperate to increase revenue, began to charge a premium for home delivery rather than, as had long been industry practice, offer a discount. I decided I could just as easily pick up the paper myself, but only on days I had time to read it, so I canceled. Periodically, I’d resubscribe when I received offers of 75% off cover price for 13 or 26 weeks, being careful to cancel when the special rate expired. Eventually, I found I was buying the paper less and less often and then, not at all.
Even after this, I continued to subscribe to Barron’s, excitedly bringing it in and reading it each weekend. I always turned first to Alan Abelson’s weekly column, and was never disappointed by his wit and insight. This love too began to fade. It began when I began to receive renewal notices offering me a “special” rate. Special apparently meant “twice as much as it would cost on our website and without online access.”
Last week, the Bancroft family made much noise opposing News Corp.’s(NWS) bid for Dow Jones(DJ), publisher of Barron’s and the Wall Street Journal. Despite the fact that the bid was 60% above the previous close,the deal appears dead on concerns that new ownership would threaten the paper’s integrity, independence and quality. Judging by an article appearing in this weekend’s Barron’s, a downward slide in quality has already begun.
I was quite dismayed when I began reading the article in this week’s Barron’s on Delta Airlines(DAL)’s prospects as it emerges from bankruptcy. I immediately noticed something amiss. Every ticker symbol in the article was wrong. As were multiple names. As were multiple words. PlaneBuzz has a copy of the article and a list of mistakes here. PlaneBuzz further reported Barron’s response to complaints:
“The use of an automated spellchecker resulted in a number of errors in last weekâ€™s feature story about Delta Airlines. The companyâ€™s chief executive is Gerald Grinstein, and an analyst cited was Ray Neidl of Calyon Securities. Deltaâ€™s ticker symbol is DAL, US Airwaysâ€™ is LCC. American Airlinesâ€™ parent is AMR, with the ticker AMR. A variety of other words also were garbled. A fully corrected version of the story is available for free on Barronâ€™s Online, at www.barrons.com .”
Old media claims an advantage over blogs in terms of quality, but apparently, no human looks at the final version of articles appearing in this paper. I’ll probably continue to read Barron’s for now, and may even subscribe to a daily newspaper again. But I now see a day in the future when I won’t. And if the newspaper has lost even me, its irrelevancy is not far off. Maybe they can cut a deal with the milkman.