Just when I thought I had read everything up on The Atlantic’s website right now I came across a wonderful piece by James Warren concerning the frighteningly increasing decline of newspapers and traditional print journalism. In it he writes that:
This matters because of the unique role journalism plays in a democracy. So much public information and official government knowledge depends on a private business model that is now failing. Journalism acknowledges and illuminates complexity, and at the same time prioritizes, helping us to evaluate the relative significance of developments playing out all around us. A very shrewd journalist-entrepreneur I know, Steve Brill, asks that one just imagine walking into a library and seeing the pages of all the books scattered on the floors and stairwells. To be sure, editors are human and subjectivity plays a role, but a newspaper places those pages—and thus the news—in some sensible order.
And, importantly, there’s a sense of social mission. Good journalism keeps public and private officials honest and helps citizens make thoughtful decisions. It does this by systematically gathering, processing, and checking relevant information, and by doing it with a spirit of independence. It’s how two previously unknown Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, put together the Watergate puzzle that forced the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon.
While I do think that much of the problems that are currently inherent to print journalism have been self-created by the industry I nonetheless find it sad every time that I read about a newspaper laying off hundreds of workers. Like Warren says in his article the reality is that many of the most trafficked sites on the internet rely heavily upon newspapers for their content and reporting; were it not for newspapers I believe that some of the sites he lists (Huffington, etc.) would not have anywhere near the content they need for survival. As an addict of news and reading in general I find it personally sad that I would lose sources like the New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post.
The next few years will certainly be interesting ones (and hopefully not too depressing of ones) for print journalism and I just really hope that at least some of the large print institutions survive and provide a model for others to follow in the rebuilding of newspapers.