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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
WyoWoman BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep (18) RE: BS: A Crisis of Newspapers: Wolves and Sheep 07 Feb 09


The thing is, if we lose the watchdog function of the press, we lose democracy. And what's being lost is precisely that. Most of the online "news" sources that we've grown so fond of aggregate their information from newspaper stories -- digging and research and interview time and writing that they don't pay for. So while people say they like to get their news online -- and I do too, even though I'm a former newspaper editor -- the source of the true depth of reporting is swiftly ebbing away, and we'll all be poorer for it.

The bloggers aren't generally reporters, They're usually doing their blogging on the basis of articles they've read and the reporting of others. And sometimes just fabricating "stories" or reporting rumors. We have to have people trained as reporters and editors who take the time and the trouble and have the commitment to dig and to shine light where the powerful or the privileged or the people we've hired as public servants don't necessarily want it shone.

I know for a fact how expensive and time-consuming that is, but also what a difference it can make. As a journalist, I've personally been responsible for altering some social conditions or blowing the whistle on someone who was misusing taxpayer resources. It matters to do that, and the online news sources, so far, really aren't the ones out there doing that work.

Maybe what will shake out of this is that we'll all end up paying for our online news, which is what needs to happen if any original reporting is going to get done. Or develop a new paradigm in which a free press is paid for without strings by citizens when they sign up for internet access . Something's gotta give, but it can't be daily journalism.

Yes, newspapers have undergone a serious decline lately. Partly that's because cutbacks make it difficult to cover all the bases, and partly it's because of fundamental changes in the kind of people who've been running things, and also in the media's attempt to be fair and balanced at the expense of being bright, persistent and incisive. Newspapers need help and change in a variety of ways. But that doesn't mean what they've traditionally provided to our society can be allowed to just drift away. It will, eventually, be noticed.

But this isn't about saving journalist jobs, it's about saving the function of a free press in a very challenged democracy.

--Wyo


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