Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thinking About a World Without Newspapers

The Gruntleds are heavy news consumers. We listen to National Professors Radio -- I mean, National Public Radio -- each morning. A normal evening in our house has everyone on a laptop reading some kind of news, with cable news in the background, leading into fake news on TV. We have among us dozens of news and semi-news blogs on RSS feed. Mrs. G. has the BBC website as her homepage (I, of course, have Centre College :-) ). Many a blog starts with the New York Times.com or CNN.com or BBC.com. And we subscribe to two daily newspapers, which I read religiously. If news were cut off, we would be in big trouble.

But if newspapers disappeared, our life would barely change.

It is clear that newspapers are in big trouble everywhere. Recently I read some speculation that one consequence of the current recession might be to decimate newspapers as an industry, shrinking down to the very big and the very local.

On the whole I can see more benefits than costs to converting news delivery to electronic forms. They are easier to search, quote, save, and link together.

My only concern is that there is not enough money in online news to support reporters, especially local reporters. Local news may become entirely a part-time "mom job" carried by stringers. We already have the example of the California paper that is written entirely by part-timers in India, reworking public sources. National news may become a subset of cable news. I dearly hope that subscription models of national news sources might work, but I can't think of any right now that I feel a need to subscribe to. Television is profitable because it includes ads in the one information stream it offers at a time, but television is a very bad medium for news.

We do need news, and that means news that pays. We don't need newspapers.


Anonymous said...

Thinking about the future of newspapers makes me feel like Sam in Lord of the Rings when the elves are sailing away forever, "I don't know why, but it makes me sad."

Mac said...

And then I read the editorial page (my first stop) of the Philadelphia Inquirer with its liberal bias (not slant--bias) and its virulently anti-Christian editorial cartoonist, Tony Auth, and its stable of "citizens" who write letters to the editor (funny how the same ones appear over and over), and I think, who cares.

But pitchers and catchers report on February 14, and then the real value of a daily newspaper becomes apparent--gotta have the daily dose of the Phillies.

Anonymous said...

I have finally realized that although I like the ritual of bringing in the morning paper (from the driveway--the carriers will no longer drop it on the front porch) and opening it up with a cup of coffee, I do not get any of the national news from it. By the time I open the paper I have already read all the national news on various websites and blogs.

I do get some local news that I'm not sure how I could get any other way though.

Rob said...
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Rob said...

Stephen A. Smith went from the Philly Inquirer to ESPN. As much as he doesn't appeal to me, I see this as the standard way of raising to the national level of news. Without local newspapers, where do the National Reporters come from? I'm sure Nationals would be fine, but the level of experience would be much less.

And, as a born and raised South Jersyian, a daily dose of the Phillies is extra important - Especially in a non-baseball state of KY.