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If You Don’t Read The Newspaper, You’re Uninformed

Topics: Popular Media | 5 CommentsBy admin | March 29, 2009

If you DO read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.

Is This News?

I’ve always loved Mark Twain’s saying “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed“. Sitting down this Sunday morning to not read the Sunday paper – something I used to love to do – I was really struck by this change in my behavior over the years. Living in a town where the local newspaper is failing as a business, I’m surprised by the way people talk about the topic. Some seem almost shocked, as if the news were some public utility, like electric power. I find that level of ignorance strange, because aside from the fact that the trend away from print has clearly been in motion for over a decade (I even used it as a sales pitch on this dated page in 2005 in the sidebar), newspapers in general have struggled since the 1970′s. Those who like to think they’re more informed show an interesting ignorance of their own. They’ll say things like “this is no surprise, the blogosphere has shown that we don’t need newspapers“. Which is a REALLY scary level of ignorance, as this Guardian UK interview with David Simon, creator of The Wire points out. As he puts it: “The internet does froth and commentary very well, but you don’t meet many internet reporters down at the courthouse.” Another argument that Simon (a former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun) puts forth is that the failure of local newspapers will allow unprecedented political corruption. Which I think shows a certain insider ignorance all its own. The ownership of newspapers by large media companies effectively killed the Woodward & Bernstein style of reporting years ago, as pointed out by journalism professionals themselves in the excellent book The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect, which is a great read, if you’re not familiar with it. In any case, the bottom line is that these days, news is business. In spite of sites like newspaperdeathwatch.com that track the carnage, there are still people who see a business opportunity. And some on line news sources understand that there are things you can do to attract visitors that you just can’t do in print, like photo features on cheerleaders wrestling in Hershey’s Syrup.

Read Comments

  1. Posted by Naomi on 03.29.09 12:52 pm

    Yes, things are changing, but they always have. One trend dies, unimaginable horrors and ignorance are predicted, then another trend surfaces. I’m sure everyone predicted the death of newspapers and investigative reporting when TV news took over, now it’s the internet that is the harbinger of the end.

    I see the point, and it’s an important point to make, but personally I think that some folks will remain informed, some uninformed and some misinformed no matter what form reporting takes. I’m not saying I’m not sad to see newspapers fail. I will miss going over the local paper with my neighbor over a smoke and a beer… if we switch to reading the laptop we’d have to put our drinks down so as not to spill on it…

  2. Posted by admin on 03.29.09 2:41 pm

    Agreed Naomi. I’m sure the churches weren’t too happy, for instance, to see the dawn of the era of the commercial printing press, but by the same token, we’ve all had the tools of a major media organization sitting right there in our homes for about twenty years, and most people still only use those tools for what? E-mail, news, and entertainment. A revolution could have started twenty times over, but instead we’re all on Facebook, chatting with college pals. And frankly, even when using recycled paper, the whole production and distribution process of newspapers is incredibly dirty and inefficient, so in the big picture, I’m glad to see them go.

  3. Posted by Naomi on 03.29.09 3:01 pm

    I’m with you… but we must also mourn the passing of cheap packing materials…

    A revolution probably nearly started many times, but dissipated as those involved clicked on just one more tangential link then another then forgot what they were searching for in the first place. Hahahaha

    Re reactions to innovation I’m always reminded of the Historical-Linguistics “joke” (in quotations because it’s not that funny even to ling nerds) about constant language change: that the elders always gripe their language is going to the dogs, but we’re not barking yet.

  4. Posted by kristin on 03.29.09 4:47 pm

    if its cheap packing materials you need, just stop by any preschool and ask them to set aside their recycled art paper. or ask any parent of a preschooler. we love their art, but the come home daily with so much it can’t all be saved…

    i feel badly for the old folks who aren’t connected to the internet, those who can’t afford it, and those unable to afford it and still unable to get to the library to access it on a regular basis to stay informed. if i watched the daily news on television, i’d be as insane as my parents who do.

    i’ll miss the physical paper itself. reading it in bed on a sunday night with the hubby has been one of the nice constants in our life. maybe we should both get laptops and we can still read it together, but not argue over sections!

  5. Posted by Naomi on 03.30.09 12:02 am

    Kristin, I *am* a mother of a preschooler and I couldn’t possibly use his art for… oh who am I kidding, I “forget” to pick it up most times :-D Good thinking!