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Print newspapers - so not dead

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I blanched when I started reading New York Timesman Max Frankel's farewell column in the Times magazine last month.

Had this longtime print man - distinguished correspondent, preeminent role model in American journalism as Times executive editor, and finally media columnist - succumbed to the newspapers-are-vanishing school of thought?

At first glance, it appeared so. Mused Mr. Frankel: "If you think a newspaper must always involve an imprint of inks on costly pulp that is processed from Canadian trees, trucked into urban factories and trucked out again to ever more widely dispersed readers, then its prospects are dim indeed. There is no feature of that paper product that will not soon be replicated and improved by digital technologies."

A Daily Digital, Frankel went on, can be delivered faster and cheaper than your print paper, read on a portable tablet, downloaded from your home computer and printed out on electronic sheets. Nothing magical about all this. The technology is at hand.

"There is little," wrote this hitherto respected colleague, but now seemingly treacherous defector to electronic journalism, "that a paper journal does for you that a Web journal could not do better."

All very well Max, I spluttered to myself. But have you forgotten the printed newspaper's portability?

You can read it anywhere from room to room at home, or on the bus or in the park, without lugging your tablet around. You can tear bits out of it, distribute sections to others. You can be moved by its display of photos, gripped by its graphics, in a way that your little computer screen can hardly replicate. Then you can browse through your newspaper in a much more leisurely manner than the more structured format of the Web page permits.

The genius of a well-edited and compellingly designed newspaper is that it lures you into reading informative and entertaining stories and features that you would never have told your computer you wanted to read.

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