It’s all going the way of the payphone

I was thinking that I need to get new photos for press stories and things like that. In the past, the publications would send out a staff photographer or someone to take the pictures. I don’t ever remember sending in my own photos. Even news channels would send out a reporter or someone with a camera and they would film you somewhere. Now it’s all zoomed in. In the past a tv station would call me up about a local issue and ask if they could send a reporter or guy with a camera over – and more times than not, they wanted me in the center of town to do the interview. This is when I published the daily news and was considered some sort of know-it-all. I wan’t, but the media thought that.

So many old ways may be gone now that the pandemic has set new rules. And even before the pandemic things were disappearing. I think kids these days only know what a phone booth is thanks to old Superman tv shows and movies.

Newspapers and magazines don’t send out photographers for a quick photo anymore due to the pandemic, but – I think in the future we’ll just send in photos like we’re doing now, which saves them time and money. And of course printed newspapers and books are going the way of online and kindle. So many offices won’t return to normal. Why pay thousands of dollars in rent for an office when people can easily work from home? Like this cartoon shows, maybe only zoom calls will be the office norms from now on.

I was reading that shared touch screens may disappear – you know, like ATM’s and things like that. People will maybe use their smart phones to navigate through things like that. Many people order food online or on their phones and then pick up the stuff, I do that. I do it with Starbucks and Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain and Sweet Green and for many years, I would order food myself at the location, on a touch screen at Panera, which of course, may just end up being my cell phone since touch screens may be a thing of the past.

Recently when I went to the zoo with my friend, I purchased the tickets online. It was more about being sure we got the tickets since they are controlling the visitor count these days.

And handshakes, will they ever come back? I never was a big hand shaker or a hugger and maybe we won’t do that in the future. Maybe we’ll bow like they do in Japan. It seems more respectful to bow, doesn’t it?

I have not physically paid a parking meter for years. I pay for parking, but I use a phone to pay for it. And maybe there will be no parking meters in the future, since the phone knows when the meter is up and no one has to drive by to check on that.

Some years ago, a friend who worked at a bank, told me that bank tellers would be a thing of the past – and so they are. I take a picture of a check and send it to the bank that way, without ever stepping inside the bank. I transfer money, pay bills (and don’t use checks either, I do that online) and things like that.

That reminds me of when I was in high school, I worked at a newspaper and at that time we had to typeset and put everything together separately – the headlines, the main galleys/type, the photos, it was a jigsaw puzzle. Our boss told us of the future, where there would be something called “pagination” where the whole page would come out as one piece, we could not fathom that, we listened in awe.

My brother Chris used to be in the computer business, when home PC’s were all sort of new. I asked him one time if it was possible to have different fonts put in the system, so that when I was doing my graphics and newspaper business, I could use different fonts for ads, text, headlines, etc. He said it might be possible, but it would take some super programming to do! Ancient history now.

I walked into one bank that is a coffee shop, I was there yesterday, in fact. The first time I walked in a year or so ago, I asked where the bank was and someone pointed to one or two teller machines in the back of the coffee shop. So now banks are coffee shops, where you of course, can order your coffee on your phone.

I joke at my local Starbucks that the app is great – “I don’t have to talk to any of you this way! I just order and go!”

At Whole Foods in some locations now, you swipe your hand and you pay that way. I use Apple Pay and swipe that and I also use their QR code on my phone for discounts. Even the NYC subway now uses a QR code rather than a card to get on the subway. The card of course, replaced tokens.

At one hotel I stayed at, I used my cell phone to unlock my room door. The room key, became a key card which now became an app. I have ordered and bought plane tickets for years online or on my phone and at the airport I check in myself and don’t even use a paper boarding pass – it’s a QR code on my phone. The first time I converse with someone during this whole process is to say hello to the attendant at the gate as they check my boarding pass on my phone.

Real estate is selling online these days in a hot market. People buy from digital showings and don’t even show up at the properties. And cars! My next car will be bought online. And I’ll have it delivered to the house and have my old car picked up. Sort of like you buy mattresses now!

We order rides, we order food, we order groceries online and even read books (and comics) on our phones now. It’s all in our pocket – including zoom calls – you don’t even need a computer to zoom.

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Thanks, but I’ve moved on

Me with my friend Michelle, celebrating the Grapevine, about 10 years ago.

This week, a year ago, I ended the Coconut Grove Grapevine, which was the daily news of our little village. The last post was exactly a year ago today.

I published it for 15 years and in that time covered everything that went on in town. I covered events, village council meetings, I fought with politicians, I did it all. After 15 long years, I ended it. I gave fair warning – a few months in advance. It was time.

But people are still mourning it. It’s almost like a tv show that ended, where people want more. You know – like Friends – people keep asking, “When is the reunion?”

I bring this all up because it’s hard to believe that people still want to send me stories to publish or want me to get involved in causes. Close friends. Just this week alone, four people asked me to publish things! I’m shocked. I quit my job guys, I retired from it, and you still want me to go back to the daily grind.

One friend called and wanted me to get involved with something at City Hall, I can’t remember what, but I was shocked that he asked. The other day I got a call out of the blue from my lawyer – a friend – who is concerned with tree issues in the village – he was reading old stories in the Grapevine and wanted me to get involved in saving the trees again, by covering the destruction around the town, caused by real estate developers, who would rather pay the fines than follow the law. You know, do it, then ask for forgiveness later.

Speaking of trees, one of my best friends called the other night – he too was concerned about a single tree in front of his former house, and he wanted me to do a story on it, to try and stop it from being taken down!

I was at a community event this weekend, sort of a mini arts festival. One of the organizers, a good friend of mine, asked me if she should send me photos that she took, you know, to help promote the event! I would post them on the social media pages, which I sometimes still dabble in, just to keep them alive.

I told her no, that I didn’t want to go there and start that again, besides, I deleted all the emails associated with the Grapevine and I certainly didn’t want her to text me the pics and I don’t want to be pressured or obligated, like I was for 15 long years.

I am proud that people still miss the publication. But it’s all about Tomversation now! Read this blog instead!! You can subscribe here: Click here. 

Today is ‘Tom Falco Day’

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Last year – February 14, 2020, was declared “Tom Falco Day” in the City of Miami. It’s hard to believe it has only been a year. While this past year seemed to fly by, in some instances it felt like 10 years in one! It is hard to believe this was only 12 months ago.

Last Feb. 14, I received a proclamation that says this date is mine! It may be Valentine’s Day to you, but to me it’s this. It may be just that one day last year, but I am claiming it in perpetuity so every February 14 is Tom Falco Day! That’s me at left with one of our City Commissioners, Ken Russell.

For 15 years I published the news and was an activist in our little village and I decided to end the publication that month. And it was so great of Ken and the local government, including the BID, to do this for me. So many of my friends and townspeople came out, such memories. It was bittersweet. It was so nice to see so many faces.

It was sort of a surprise, so I didn’t invite family or anyone. I was just told to show up Friday afternoon at 4 pm. I knew something was up, but not what, I knew enough to throw a jacket in the back of my car, just in case.

Not publishing the news every day is a lot off my shoulders, it was a big responsibility. Ending that responsibility felt like it was the last day of school. Forever! I remember that feeling.

I’m still around, I see the same people every day, but I’m part of the community now, I blend in, I’m not in everyone’s business. I like it this way.

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day Tom Falco Day!

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It’s impossible to unsubscribe

I ended my little foray into subscribing to out of town newspapers. Why? Because it’s almost impossible to unsubscribe. So I am hesitant to start subscribing to more of them.

I had wanted to get e-newspapers for various newspapers around the country, just to get some idea of what’s going on. You know, subscribe for a few for a few months and then move on to other papers. it’s a trip around the world, or at least, the country. But it’s a chore to cancel the subscriptions.

You call up, tell them you want to unsubscribe and they ask you why. With the New York Daily News I told them, “Because I am in Miami.” And then they go on, “But you should keep it because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” And this happened with the Asheville Citizen-Times and so many others.

With the Asheville Citizen-Times, the woman went on and on and said she could get me the paper at lower cost. And I kept telling her, but I live in Miami. I had only subscribed because I had planned to go to North Carolina this summer, but never did end up going.

She told me her plans of going to Philadelphia changed because of the virus so she understands and then she went on, “But I can get your a lower rate for the Citizen-Times for only ….” Salespeople. Gotta hate them.

When I unsubscribed to the Miami Herald, I received phone calls daily asking me why. One reason was that we had an inept delivery person and when the newspaper didn’t arrive, I didn’t even miss it. What was the point of paying for the newspaper if I never read it?

I am back to subscribing to the printed Herald – they wore me down. I’m expecting calls from the Citizen-Times, NY Daily News and others now.

Eddie Van Halen

I’m feeling really bad about Eddie Van Halen’s passing yesterday. I’m not sure why. I mean I loved Van Halen, but I loved so many other people who passed, but I don’t feel devastated over their deaths.

I didn’t feel devastated over Michael Jackson, but I did over Prince and Tom Petty. I felt devastated over Audrey Meadows, but not Jackie Gleason. Weird, right? Anthony Bourdain really hit me hard. A friend in my head.

Maybe it’s the state of mind we are in on the day we hear of the passing. I can’t figure out why else I would feel so bad for some people and not others. All people I don’t know and never met.

But they were all part of my life. Part of my youth. When they pass away, is a part of my youth passing away?

I always remember when 1983 was turning into 1984, the first video MTV showed right after midnight was Jump, by Van Halen, the first video of 1984. I think it was the premier of the song or maybe just the video. But of all the New Years eves, this one always sticks in my head. I can picture myself in the family room in front of the tv, sitting on the floor, and I can picture my mother in the kitchen on the phone, probably wishing Happy New Year to someone at that midnight hour. But that’s one of my special memories of two of my favorite years – 1983 and 1984 – Van Halen performing Jump, which was the first time I had seen and heard it.

I’m paperless!

miami-heraldI cancelled my Miami Herald subscription. First time in my life! I don’t think I have ever not had a newspaper delivery even as kids my parents always got a newspaper or two delivered. But I am tired of the lack of service by the delivery person and the constant increase in price.

It bothers me because I want to support the newspaper and I will probably subscribe digitally, as I have done with other newspapers, which I mentioned last week. But I haven’t been reading it. I don’t even pick it up and bring it inside most days and I’ve only used it for the tv listings, which of course, I can easily get online.

When I was a kid, there were so many options, I could easily get seven or so newspapers a day if I wanted. I usually got those to read the comics.  Now I read the comics online.

I do hope newspapers all survive. They are part of our lives, part of daily life. So many of us still do read the newspapers, but we don’t realize it. But when you are reading stories and clicking on things all over the internet and on social media, most likely you are clicking on daily newspapers and reading stories that interest you. I think I must follow 100 newspapers and tv stations from all around the country on Facebook. And I pick and choose what to read as they post the stories.

I will continue my new practice of subscribing to local newspapers from around the country online. It’s not expensive, you get the actual newspapers to flip through as an e-paper and I’m supporting them and seeing what’s up around the country. I believe that the circulation of newspapers this way is up, but they are having a hard time monetizing it. I’m not sure why it’s such a problem to transfer advertisers from the printed page to digital. The audience is online.

Out of town newspapers

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I’ve been reading out of town newspapers. Digitally. I’ve subscribed to a few.

The New York Daily News is not what it was, but I guess no newspapers are. I used to read three or four dailies a day when I was in New York – The Daily News, the NY Post, Newsday and the NY Times. Then it got down to just The Daily News and then nothing. I literally do not pick up a newspaper when I am in New York. I think it might be because the Daily News gave me the run around for years regarding my comics and I’m holding a grudge, but maybe not, there really is not much to read and I don’t like their comics selection.

They are also very small and not worth the money it seems. By the time you read the printed copy, the news was already printed all over social media. As for size – what’s old is new again, the shrinkage of the paper is really how they started. The original newspapers were about 8 or 12 pages long. The whole paper was that size. I have an original New York Herald from 1861 – it’s 8 pages. But that was the size of all the newspapers back then. There weren’t many photos or graphics and ads were small lines of text, not display ads, which of course would eventually come.

In the late 1980s, there was a newspaper war between The NY Daily News and the NY Post. Both had about 1 million circulation a day and they printed about eight issues a day. Eight new front pages each day, printed and out on the street! As I walked through the city, each time I passed a newsstand, it seemed that there was a new front page.

One of my favorite stories is the newspaper strike of 1945 in NYC. I have a video of it here. Millions of papers were sold when the distributors were on strike, but not the actual newspaper. People would line up, blocks long, to plunk down their nickel for the daily paper – there were about a dozen newspapers in the city at that time and millions of issues were sold daily! I would be old now, but sometimes I wish I lived in that era, just to experience the newspapers – the large sizes, the large comics, the multiple selections to choose from . . .

Until recently, in Hoboken, as soon as I got off the PATH train, I would pick up three newspapers – The Jersey Journal, The Newark Star-Ledger and The Bergen Record, all three were easily available, but again, I do not purchase the papers anymore. They cost too much. $5 to $8 a day (total for all) in newspapers is a bit much.

Anyway, I am digitally subscribing to The NY Daily News (grudge and all), the Asheville Citizen-Times, the Charlotte Observer and a few others. I get the Miami Herald digitally along with my printed subscription and I notice that a few of the newspaper also offer USA Today as a bonus, which I never go into and my cousin is always telling me how great it is.

I remember when USA first started, I was a kid then, but always loved newspapers. I used to think it was so cool – all the color and the whole national newspaper aspect of it. But I guess I like my newspapers to be local. I read different newspapers to get their take on their local market.

When I was a kid I used to love seeing the out of town newspapers for two things – the comics and the tv listings. I used to be fascinated by the different tv channels around the country and of course I loved seeing the comics selections and seeing comics that my local papers didn’t carry. And of course you can travel the world or the country, by reading out of state newspapers.

The demise of editorial cartoons?

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You can’t please anyone. Travels With Farley from June 23, 1977.

The Washington Post has an article about the slow demise of editorial cartoons and cartoonists, because they are offending some readers and I guess in this day and age, newspapers need to hold on to all the subscribers they can.

join-or-dieIronically, the first cartoons in newspapers were editorial cartoons from way back – in fact the first one ran in, 1754! Yup, in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette. You may have seen it over the years, it’s right here, the “join or die” image, regarding the colonies.

I’m often concerned about losing followers or readers, not by what I post, but sometimes what they say – in the comments sections, mostly on Facebook and Instagram. I keep my mouth shut, but at times I want to argue. I have been known to delete some comments that are racist or stupid.

But it is interesting that a couple of complaints over a cartoon and newspapers would rather dump the whole editorial cartoon department rather than a subscriber or two. Which often makes me wonder since there isn’t the competition there was years ago. Most cities only have one newspaper, so there is nowhere else for a reader to go if they are in the daily newspaper reading habit.

I feel they are spiting themselves by unsubscribing to a daily habit that they have probably had most of their lives. It’s just so easy to just turn the page – sort of like turning the tv channel if you don’t like something, rather than complaining to the network.

Newspapers – a cultural reckoning

spideyThe Daily Cartoonist talks about the demise of local newspapers and asks Who’s Killing Your Local Newspaper? They say, “In the face of layoffs, the coronavirus, and private equity firms like Alden Capital trying to strip it for parts, the news industry is on the verge of collapse.”

Oddly enough, today’s comic is newspaper related as you can see.

Recently I signed a petition to save the Miami Herald from equity firms taking over the newspaper. That is who is owning the newspapers these days – they are also buying up my little village – everything that was once mom and pop, including the newspapers are now owned by corporations or retirement funds.

For the past few years I wondered why newspapers don’t turn themselves into a commodity, something people want – and what I mean is when a newspaper has a story or feature, say destined for Sunday’s paper – a big feature – they post it online on Tuesday. Why? What would be the point of me buying the Sunday paper then? I will read a story online Tuesday that later appears in the Thursday or Friday print edition. It’s old news by then. The stories are written and posted at that moment rather than wait for it to be printed. That’s great if the newspapers weren’t trying to save their print editions.

I can’t tell you how many times my father says to me, “Did you see such and such in the paper today?” And I’ll say, “Yes, but I read it three days ago online.”  If the newspapers published the stories and features in the printed paper first, and then after that, posted them online, it might work out better than the way they do it now. I’m not talking about news, I know they want to publish news as soon as possible, but features and stories – print them first, then place them online.

To be honest, I only get daily delivery of our local paper so I can support them. Most days I don’t even open it. I’ve read it all before it even arrives on my doorstep.

There was a time when I read so many newspapers in a day and now I read even more because I read papers from out of state and there lies the rub (I love saying that) – circulation is up due to online publication, but newspapers need to find a way to make money online – and not through a pay wall. There has to be a way for them to make money through ads. People can read newspapers from all over the world, so the audience is there.

When I published the daily news online here in town, I sold ads – I made money – it was not my main goal and I saw it more as a community service so I didn’t push for ads – but if I wanted to, I probably could have supported myself. Why can’t the daily newspapers do that? I see ads every five seconds on social media – why not the online newspapers?

Black Out Tuesday

black-out-tuesdayToday is Black Out Tuesday. Many cartoonists and entertainers are posting a black box on social media instead of the usual posts.

You will see this on my social media pages. There won’t be a comic today out of respect for George Floyd, his family and the protesters. I stand with my black neighbors and friends.

Interestingly enough I learned that using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter on these posts on social media drowns out the story for those following current events. So that is the hashtag to follow if you want up-to-date social media posts on Instagram, Facebook and the others.

You can donate to the Black Lives Matter Fund here.
And the ACLU here.