Sunday, September 21, 2008


My addiction to newspapers began when I was studying theatre in England. Every Sunday the local news agent was suddenly filled with an avalanche of thick broadsheets with everything from celebrity exposes and semi-nude Page Three cuties to in depth essays on literature and politics by some of the world's great thinkers.

Cheap as hell and filled with the promise of addressing any of my current interests as well as introducing me to future ones, I always scooped up a handful to accompany breakfast -- although I was usually still working my way through them sometime the following Saturday.

Toronto didn't have a Sunday paper when I first arrived. We had three reliable choices in the Globe & Mail, the Star and the Sun the rest of the week. The saying back then was that the Globe was read by people in power, the Star by people who'd like to be in power and the Sun by those who didn't care who was in power, as long as she looked good in a bikini. And they all got thicker on Saturday, but only by doing a little more of what they covered regularly.

That led me to the New York Times on Sundays, and besides always being full some and diverse in its offerings, I began to notice that the Times was always pushing the envelope in terms of seeing just how much a newspaper could do. Maybe they'd had a peek at the world that was to come.

Newspapers today are struggling in their print editions as they not only compete with online news services but try to expand their better known imprimaturs into cyberspace. Unfortunately, most online versions of newspapers merely copy the print version into pixels. But some are exploring new ways of providing the information and analysis that is their primary purpose.

Some have added news video, sports tickers and columnist blogs. But a few are going much further.

The New York Times has a rapidly expanding Multimedia section that offers everything from interactive graphics to its own in house classical music station. Now you don't have to haul 4 pounds of newsprint down to a bench in Sheridan Square where you can read the Arts section to a busking string quartet. They've brought that experience into your home.

I'd really like the Times to up link about ten minutes of breakfast ambience from the Carnegie Deli, complete with clattering china, yelling waiters and showbiz jokes from the next table, so I can peruse their front page the way it was meant to be read.

Over in London, where your Sunday paper now often comes with a paperback, DVD or even Prince's newest CD glued to the front page, the London Times has initiated not only its own online television station but a handsome piece of eye and cyber candy called Luxx where you can recreate the page turning process of a real magazine, while linking through to embedded video, audio and advertiser's online stores.

You don't have to be trendy and wealthy to enjoy Luxx, but I'm sure it helps.

However, to find an example of a newspaper doing its most important job, bringing you into the story and helping you relate to it, you don't have to look any further than our own Globe and Mail.

This week, I discovered a remarkable photo essay by Globe photographer Charla Jones called "The Long Summer". It could've been one of those stories you've seen a hundred times about the nomadic lives of traveling carnies. But Jones and her newspaper have transformed that into one of the most moving and engaging pieces of documentary journalism I've seen in quite some time.

There are eight separate profiles in "The Long Summer", every one completely unique and filled with its own fascinating stories. If this is where smart newspapers and the Internet are going, a lot more people will be spending a lot less time in front of their televisions.

You can find all "The Long Summer" videos here. My sincere thanks to Charla Jones and Jayson Taylor of the Globe for making it possible for me to post a sample to introduce you to their work.

I hope you like meeting "Ace" as much as I did. But please check out "Frenchie", "Pops" and all of the others as well. And enjoy your Sunday.

1 comment:

M Foster said...

That was great. Ace tattooed on his arm at the age of four.

Good find.