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.