Bye-bye newspapers?

Posted on July 27, 2007 
Filed Under Journalism

From New York Review of Books via buddy Tom:

The American press has the blues. Too many authorities have assured it that its days are numbered, too many good newspapers are in ruins. It has lost too much public respect.

Courts that once treated it like a sleeping tiger now taunt it with insolent subpoenas and put in jail reporters who refuse to play ball with prosecutors.

It is abused relentlessly on talk radio and in Internet blogs.

It is easily bullied into acquiescing in the designs of a presidential propaganda machine determined to dominate the news.

Its advertising and circulation are being drained away by the Internet, and its owners seem stricken by a failure of the entrepreneurial imagination needed to prosper in the electronic age.

Surveys showing that more and more young people get their news from television and computers breed a melancholy sense that the press is yesteryear’s thing, a horse-drawn buggy on an eight-lane interstate.

Then there are the embarrassments: hoaxers like Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass turn journalism into farce.

The elite Washington press corps is bamboozled into helping a circle of neoconservative connivers create the Iraq war.

What became of heroes? Journalists used to dine out on the deeds of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during Watergate; of David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, and Malcolm Browne in Vietnam; of “Punch” Sulzberger and Kay Graham risking everything to publish the Pentagon Papers.

Instead of heroes, today’s table talk is about journalistic frauds and a Washington press too dim to stay out of a three-card-monte game.

Quoting former LA Times editor John S. Carroll’s speech “What Will Become of Newspapers?”:

…we have seen a narrowing of the purpose of the newspaper in the eyes of its owner. Under the old local owners, a newspaper’s capacity for making money was only part of its value.

Today, it is everything. Gone is the notion that a newspaper should lead, that it has an obligation to its community, that it is beholden to the public….

Someday, I suspect, when we look back on these forty years, we will wonder how we allowed the public good to be so deeply subordinated to private gain….

What do the current owners want from their newspapers?—the answer could not be simpler: Money. That’s it.

MORE.

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