Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Transit Tabloids

I love nasty. Here is Slate’s Jack Shafer eviserating a new Washington transit daily:

If you find news radio too intellectually taxing or wish CNN would slow down its news ticker, the Washington Post Co. has just the thing for you—Express, a free weekday tabloid that debuted in the nation's capital this morning, distributed by hawkers at subway stops. Express compresses the news into 60-word "in brief" capsules, and when writing about something really important—say, Paris Hilton's reality TV show—splurges with 400 words. Express ladles the news out with an eyedropper into tiny text boxes and then flattens it with a steamroller.

Shafer goes on to mention that the alt-weekly Washington City Paper handed out a parody of the Express (Expresso) on the day the Express debuted. How I would love to live in a city vibrant and confident enough to generate such a cheeky bit of retaliation:

"For Those Who Will Not Read, We Salute You!" proclaims the Expresso cover story. Expresso asks the man on the street what he's not reading these days. "That Potter book," says Carl of Germantown. "I haven't read any of the Potter books lately. At all," says Jen of Arlington.

Toronto tried the transit paper route a few years ago. At the time I scoffed at the idea, but according to the most recent NADbank numbers (March 28, 2003), the Metro Toronto is ranked fourth, with a weekly readership of 649,000. (The Post is dead last in the Toronto daily newspaper sweepstakes at 551,700).

The future of news, it appears, is not to print any of it.