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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Consuming the News

I worked years ago alongside a one-time Long Island Press reporter who, in the late 1990s, told me about that newspaper’s sudden demise in the late 1970s. Now, hang with me, because you have to be a certain age (40-plus) to even remember the Press, an afternoon daily.

I listened intently to the former Press reporter as he recounted the turmoil its closure created in his life as a 20-something-year-old newlywed. He and his wife didn’t have children at the time, he continued, and later allowed that things had turned out better for his family because he soon landed a higher-paying position. With the conversation having lightened, I felt it appropriate to remind him how much older he was than me. “Thanks for sharing that story, Steve, because the Press’ closure had a big impact on me, too. It completely wrecked my paper route.”

By telling that anecdote in 2010, I know I’m dating myself. But I was a news junkie even as a kid, and was upset when the Press shut its doors. The immediate impact for me at the time: The New York Post assumed all of the Press routes so I became a Post delivery guy. Few of my Long Island Press customers in Port Washington’s village of Manorhaven were fans of the Post. If a headless body had been found in a topless bar, as the Post famously reported, the typical Press reader didn’t want to know the details, although I certainly did.

Old habits die hard, and I read at least three print newspapers a day, although as the married father of three sons I no longer have either the time or energy to get on my bicycle and bring them to anyone’s door.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press issued a report this month illustrating that, while print newspapers have fallen out of favor, these are the good old days for consumers of news. In a national survey of more than 3,000, conducted in June 2010, Pew found that “only about one in four (26 percent) Americans say they read a newspaper in print yesterday, down from 30 percent two years ago and 38 percent in 2006.” These print newspaper declines were only partially offset by their growing online readership, the report stated.

Nonetheless, Pew found that Americans are spending more time each day tracking the news in 2010 than they did in 2000. The daily amount of time spent getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers has stayed the same over the past decade, the study found, at 57 minutes. “But today, they also spend an additional 13 minutes getting news online, increasing the total time spent with the news to 70 minutes,” the Pew study said.

Indeed, online news came to my rescue on Tuesday evening, Sept.14, as I searched unsuccessfully for a TV station carrying Carl Paladino’s remarks following his victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary. I solved the problem by walking over to my computer, logging onto Time Warner Cable’s ny1.com, and then watched Paladino’s speech as it was streamed live.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net