Free Delivery

Newspapers in danger of abandoning their mission

Peggy Drexler, a psychology professor from Cornell University has written a marvelous, thoughtful piece on newspapers and the net that warns that, while local newspapers are certainly healthy and strong and likely to survive,  journalism — the passionate deep reporting and storytelling that makes them great  — is not.

As newspaper companies adapt to the realities of consumers who can travel the world on their iPhone, I am afraid they are going to become a shell of their original purpose; a brand name for a collection of niche publications, free tabloids and assorted Web sites. The center, that gravitational force that holds the parts of a community in its orbit, will be gone.

She’s clearly a keen observer (or at least a shaply intuitive one) of the newspaper business, because that is precisely the shape that many see our business acquiring. The American Press Institutes latest Newspaper Next report, calls on papers to re-orient their business and turn themselves into "local information and connection utilities". That’s a smart and sensible approach. But it ain’t gonna do much for journalism, other than keep newspaper companies alive.

Drexler acknowledges that newspapers, quite sensibly, are investing in and moving onto the net — a free-wheeling space that so far has not proved hospitable to ad-supported or subscription-based local journalism. But this means their print counterparts will increasingly be starved of resources, talent and ultimately readers. Neither these new newspaper lites nor their web versions seem capable  of supporting the same depth and volume of original journalism as print. A central role will go unfilled:

Sometimes flawed, newspapers are more often magnificent. They are the place where lies, distortions and manipulations are dragged into the town square, even though — as in the early cheerleading for the invasion of Iraq — it takes a while to get there.

Drexler quotes Canada’s own Marshall McLuhan, noting that "People don’t read newspapers, they slip into them like a warm bath." Her thoughtful lament is a warning that technology and time has pulled the plug.

Don’t satisfy yourself with my precis – go read Drexler herself.


Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.