The End of the News As We Knew It; Why Should You Care?
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The End of the News As We Knew It; Why Should You Care?

I'm still mourning the recent loss of The Rocky Mountain News - one of Denver, Colorado's two, longtime competing newspapers.  Published for 150 years, the venerable newspaper died an unceremonious death on February 27.  Its death was just the latest in a number of newspapers closings. We are nearing the end of the news as we once knew it.

Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie.

Why should you care? Well, maybe you don't. Maybe you think the print media is too left-leaning. Or maybe, you think just the opposite - the editorial pages are all too red, white and Right. But that's the point, or the very fine print, about great newspapers. A great newspaper should never telegraph  bias; it must never promote any single point of view.  Great newspapers are published to tell it like it is; not like how someone wants it to be. So if too opposing sides are arguing about the slant of a newspaper, assume the newspaper has no slant at all.

Over the past decade or so, more and more, this hasn't always been the case. Some newspapers abandoned objectivity in favor of reporting on celebrity-driven, superficial news. Real news wasn't even covered. Maybe this was a case of giving the public what it wanted; or maybe just another example of the anything goes mentality responsible for so much damage to our current economy. Could a responsible press have alerted us to the dangers ahead? Probably. Many reporters simply failed to cover the stories that deserved coverage. They looked the other way. And when they did report (like Barrons' on Bernard Madoff, long before he was arrested), responsible officials chose not to take action. In many cases, reporters dropped the story and the ball. Or never picked it up in the first place. This happened time and time again when scandals bubbled to the surface; investigative reporters didn't dig deeper for the story. That's not what I was taught in journalism school. Remember when journalism was still a desirable college major? Without a viable print (newspaper) industry, we are nearing the end of Journalism School as we once knew it.

Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie.

Again, why should you care? Because news reporters are our local and national road warriors and street fighters. They have the means and the opportunity to expose wrongdoing and corruption in our backyard and down the street. Newspapers also are the voices of our neighborhoods; they are the last best means of communicating local news -from the honors and awards to hometown heroes to the tragedies and passings of those we knew or wished to.  If there are is a living, breathing newspaper in your city or town, congratulations. Treat is like the endangered species it is. It may not last.

Once upon a time, the printed press was considered The Fourth Estate - the unofficial 4th arm of the Government, designed to observe, protect and defend the people against wrongdoing in the two Houses of Congress and the Presidential Office. The Washington Post reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, showed the power of the press by uncovering the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. The My Lai massacre was first reported in the printed press. Those are just two examples of the kind of in-depth newspaper reporting that changed the course of  government and politics. I don't believe these examples, or others like them, could ever be duplicated on television, the radio or the internet. Why should you care?

A free society functions best when the press is free. When there is no more press, it becomes an open question about how we are to freely obtain dependable and legitimate news about the world and our Country. Are we to depend on talk radio (openly biased in many cases), television sound bites, or internet digests? How are we to learn about road closures in our cities? FBI drug busts in our state? Congressional ear-marks in our nation?  The collapse of banks around the world? Will a half-hour local newscast suffice? I am not satisfied one-minute TV sound bites on the national TV news or talking heads debating the merits of an issue for a book they wish to promote, can ever bring me all the national and world news a newspaper is fit to print.

I was deeply saddened when the highly-regarded Christian Science Monitor in Boston closed. I feel a stab every time I hear about another newspaper going under. Each newspaper that folds is one less outlet we have for the whole truth to be told. Word is The San Francisco Chronicle, another highly-regarded newspaper,  also is on its last legs (pages) and The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times also are in trouble. Newspapers have already folded in major cities like Minneapolis. More newspapers are teetering on the edge. Surely this economy will not save them.

And why should you care?

Because one less newspaper means one less voice raised to keep the news fair and free. Because the American way of life, as we knew it, ("Extra, Extra, Read All About It") is changing drastically, whether we want it to or not. The decline and death of newspapers is but one of the latest major changes to come down the pike. There will be more changes, of a different kind, as we slowly work our way out of this Mess. Not all bad, of course. Some changes will be so astounding, they will knock our socks off. But some, like the extinction of newspapers, will be harder to absorb. At least for those of us born with ink in our veins.

Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie.

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Comments (10)

Excellent article and I am glad someone wrote about this. I am bothered by the loss of newspapers. The internet is great for reading many things, but so many of the things we read on the internet came from newspaper reporters in the first place. Radio stations don’t even have reporters anymore. The city doesn’t feel the same without the Rocky and now there is talk that the Denver Post won’t be around in two years.

Thank YOU contributors and Factoidz for all you do to get the news out - shedding light, informing, and offering the public a diverse forum to voice issues that matter.

Yep, I have to say, it's sad to see one newspaper after another closing. Soon to follow will be TV news operations. Many of the local TV news operations are in survival mode, trying to stay afloat as long as possible. The real death of local TV stations will happen when the economics change even more, and the networks no longer need local affiliates.

Or as the sponsors evaporate, like the advertisers who left newspapers and now magazines (the well-regarded shelter magazine, "Domino" abruptly ended publication last month). There is indeed a ripple effect, and it looks like the news (print and broadcast) will be a casualty. Where is Superman (aka reporter Clark Kent) when we need him?

Oh, no! Not another one bites the dust! (as the old song goes)...I so agree about the importance of newspaper article follow-ups, feature pages,coverage of local sports (high school and college) and even the comic strips that defined our nation from the early 1900s to today: From The Katzenjammer Kids to Steven Canyon to Peanuts. From the trivial to the life-changing, newspapers have helped us understand what truly matters in our communities and in our Nation. (Just where would we be without Charlie Brown and Snoopy? And just where would we be without the articles, photographs and editorial cartoons that have won The Pulitzer Prize?)

The loss of newspapers is saddening and the thought that magazines and local news stations may be going under too is sad as well. But, there will always be the need for news. We're just going to be getting it a little different in the future. The internet has blown up with news and media sites, not to mention sites like this one(Factoidz) that allows everyday people to contribute. I think there's a writer in all of us and we all have the ability to contribute something to the news, whether it be about something local in our community or something global that could potentially affect everyone. I'm trying to embrace this new era and looking forward to it. I went to college for "communications" and hoped to get a job in the publishing industry, whether at a newspaper, magazine, tv station, publishing company or on the internet writing. I have wrote now for several different web sites and there is a lot of venues out there. I think the future is on the internet and with an ever increasing connected world, you have to be willing to change or you will die out with the dinosaurs. I understand how saddening this is that newspapers are not going to exist the way they have existed for so long now. But look on the bright side, they won't disappear completely, they're just going to undergo a major change now.

Another problem with the loss of newspapers in printed form are the senior citizens. Many of them don't have or want the internet or cant afford it. And they rely on the newspaper. There are free newspapers in Denver that are doing very well. There is the Denver Daily News which is pretty good and another free paper thats been around for 32 years that is called Westword. Westord is owned now by Village Media and they have these free newspapers in many cities.

Yes, my Factoidz colleagues! We are evolving how we communicate the news. I get some news from newspaper internet sites (The New York Times, for example), so I agree there is a way to keep reading print media. I just worry about some blogs/sites that slant news under cover of bias and political leanings. That's when coverage becomes propaganda and some readers may be misled, thinking they are getting the entire objective story.Perhaps there's a Factoidz about that!! I'm such a fan of Factoidz' populist writers and coverage! I can see the wave of Populism sweeping over our country right now, and we're riding the wave here, thanks to the Site's creators and editors, who opened the doors to us. Thank you Kdelik for the suggestion about The Rocky. I wrote for that newspaper many years ago when I lived in Denver (and also for its competitor, The Denver Post). I don't feel like a RMN expert since I've moved away, but I will grab an expert tag here that relates to reporting and I will keep plugging away - as I know both you and MandaSparkle are doing. I read your on-point contributions! Right (Write) on! Thanks for taking the time to comment and I look forward to more dialogue. Cheers as we used to say in the "dinosaur" biz.

Thanks, Sam. I was a fan of Westword back in the day. The fact that it survives is testament to the fact it's valued by its readers. Perhaps many seniors now get their news from local TV stations - especially those who missed learning how to use a computer. If those stations were to fold, that would be another nail in the news bucket. The free newspapers, I know about, generally tend to be populist in nature - at least in terms of what they cover, and are aimed at a younger demographic. I feel better about a thriving free news community that is not bound to the views of its advertisers, and can survive economic downturns. I know there are ads in many of these free papers, but some of the bigger freebies, like Westword, The Los Angeles Free Press, The San Diego Reader, etc are seemingly independent from pandering to their advertisers. In many cases, they've been around for a long time. ( These were once known as "throwaways" - but no more).

A couple more newspapers have gone silent recently. On 3/24/2009 Senator Benjamin Cardin (D., MD) introduced a bill called the "the Newspaper Revitalization Act". That would grant newspaper companies non-profit status. The only thing that would change is the newspaper granted this status could not make political endorsements.