An Open Letter to the South Bend Tribune

By Michael Stephens | This sort of snuck up on me, but I'm breaking up with my hometown newspaper. I think this break from my print subscription is rather important, illustrating how the world of news and information is changing.  Read on for the details.


Dear South Bend Tribune:

I received your letter today asking for more information as to why I canceled my subscription last week.  Your letter included a brief questionnaire asking why I stopped the paper and how the customer service was when I called to cancel.  Yes, I called to cancel, because I couldn't find a way to do so online.  You might want to make that an option.

I canceled not only because the papers were piling up week to week and sometimes went right into the recycling bin, but also because I realized I was reading only the ads -- particularly that big box electronics retailer I enjoy thumbing through every Sunday.  These days I get my news mainly through the Web: thus the check-marked box on the questionnaire "I get my news from the Internet."  I think you're probably seeing more of this type of response.

More specifically, I use an RSS portal page and just recently added a local news and information tab to my collection of automatically updating Web pages.

NetVibes page

Not only could I populate the page with your feeds (thanks for them!) but I also added feeds from the local NBC affiliate, a weather box, a Flickr stream of all photos tagged "Mishawaka," and a few other widgets to gather all the news about my home town in one place.  And I'll be able to get to it from anywhere I happen to be:  In Chicago teaching, at a conference or presentation, or on vacation.

I would like to thank you for all the years of providing the paper version:  From my birth announcement in May 1965 to my high school and college graduations and even the little note you ran when I got the job at Dominican University, but frankly, the time has come.

I will, however, thank you for the blogs you've added to your Web site, complete with comments, the podcasts, the RSS Feeds page, and the live chats with Heidi Prescott, the columnist who keeps us informed about local businesses and what stores might be coming our way, and the story toolbox and many of your pages.

What you can do for me now, if you don't mind:

  • Please keep publishing your feeds.
  • Allow me to set up archive searches as feeds as well (and open up your archives for free, not for $1.95 per article -- it's time!).  I'd like to have a feed from your content for every time my former employer -- the St. Joseph County Public Library -- is mentioned in your articles.
  • Keep up the great blogging work.

I teach graduate students in a library science program. One thing I do with my students is show them how to use RSS and how to blog and participate in the global conversations playing out online.  I also work with librarians in practice and I hope they are incorporating building a local news portal like this into their public web classes.   So please keep the content coming in ways users can take it, use and display it to their liking:  On a web page, on their phones, on whatever new devices may come our way.

Thanks for all the years of paper -- and here's to many more via RSS (and whatever the next delivery mechanism may be!)


Michael Stephens