Newspapers vs. News

I am getting pretty tired of the drumbeat about the dire consequences of the decline of the newspaper industry. NPR did a piece this morning and it’s a pretty hard topic to avoid in the media. Why do people feel that newspapers – which are only one of several channels for distributing news – are so important?

People make the claim that newspapers are the glue that binds communities together and that the common knowledge base provided by newspapers is critical to a functioning democracy.

The Boston Globe now has a circulation of just over 300,000. That’s what, just about half the city’s population? Of course the Globe’s circulation isn’t limited to Boston. So how critical is the Globe really as a tool for community coherence?

Until 1704, Boston didn’t even have a newspaper. Does that mean Boston didn’t have any news? Or that the city had no community or civic life? Probably not. So how did those poor newsless folk of yesteryear stay informed and in touch?


That sounds an awful lot like what we’re seeing springing up today (except for the handwriting part) in the form of blogs, tweets, user-generated videos, etc.

Methods for reporting and sharing news have always existed and that isn’t going to change. The channels may change – but that isn’t anything new either. Nor is the handwringing. Putting news – which is inherently dynamic content – onto a static medium doesn’t make that much sense. People are – and will – continue to find ways to get and share information.

The News isn’t dead but newspapers are looking for life support.


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