Friday, March 02, 2007

Extra, Extra, Read All About It.

It was a pleasure to sit over breakfast this morning with the newspaper, but as I did so, a lot of things went through my mind. As I read about how the local bus station is closing it's lobby because school kids have started 11 fights since January, or about the local dog breeders who are being shut down due over a bunch of mangy Jack Russell terriers, I wondered whether the days of my local paper are numbered.

I've been watching the Frontline special series News War on PBS, which in the latest installment chronicled the perilous state of the newspaper business. After hearing about falling classified ad revenue and the internet generation that goes online for news, I was a little surprised to learn that the business is still making lots of money. It's the future that doesn't look so good, and since stockholders are investing in the future, a prognosis for decline tomorrow means sell-offs today, and CEO's can't stand that. The business is going through some changes.

The fact that the future of the American newspaper is in doubt should be troubling. It was said in the Frontline piece that newspapers are really the main gatherers of new information, the main breakers of stories, and that the rest of the news media copy what they see in the paper. This has the ring of truth, from my experience. Yes, electronic media occasionally break stories, but I'd guess that the majority of what you see on your local news is something that was first printed in a newspaper.

For a perfect example you need look no farther than the biggest headline of the day, the resignation of the Secretary of the Army over the Walter Reed scandal broken recently by the Washington Post. These days, there are very few organizations with the resources and desire to invest such effort into hard news, and the number is getting smaller all the time. Kudos to the Washington Post.

This all comes on top of something I read recently by Garrison Keillor that made me laugh. It's called "Seven rules for reading the paper." I have recently quit lugging my laptop around with my wherever I go, and Garrison approves.


Anonymous Jeremy H said...

Obviously the newspaper needs to evolve. The immediacy of the internet leads to each paper sccoping themselves. I look at the daily paper and it's the exact story I read yesterday on their website.

If anything the papers need to be more aggressive and in-depth in their print edition to deliver content that isn't 12 hours old and available for free on-line.

Newspapers will always exist in some form. But they may become smaller, more locally oriented; or targeted towards a more literate, world-savvy crowd. Either of which might actually be better than the publicly traded conglomerates that exist right now.

9:04 AM  

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