Jul 22, 2008

In case you missed it...

Romenesko links to a scathing piece by Chris Hedges about the state of the American newspaper industry and what that says about the state of American civic life:

The decline of newspapers is not about the replacement of the antiquated technology of news print with the lightning speed of the Internet. It does not signal an inevitable and salutary change. It is not a form of progress. The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print.

I'd like to emphasize a point he makes about newspapers do that is different from what other businesses do. It's a mission that rarely gets mentioned anymore as we follow the job cuts, examine the financial reports and fight for survival. It's the newspaper's role as a voice for the voiceless. Those who are most willing to declare newspapers dead already have a voice. The owners who watch bottom lines, the managers who watch hit counts, the innovation gurus who brainstorm about the possibilities of whatever already have a voice. The prognosticators who giddily await news tailored for their iPhones and PDAs already have a voice. The bloggers who sling opinions and the think tankers who prescribe reader-surveyed remedies have a voice.

From Hedges: Newspapers, when well run, are a public trust. They provide, at their best, the means for citizens to examine themselves, to ferret out lies and the abuse of power by elected officials and corrupt businesses, to give a voice to those who would, without the press, have no voice, and to follow, in ways a private citizen cannot, the daily workings of local, state and federal government.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just jaded but who the heck doesn't have a voice these days? Even animals have advocates. The fuzzy liberal notion that newspapers are a forum for those who have none otherwise is hardly accurate now. Perhaps it never was. On the web you have everybody's interests represented, from radical vegans to neofascists. A better model for what newspapers really are is a representative for the interests of those people who would patronize the publication's advertisers. In a modern capitalist society, when newspapers take points of view or advocate positions opposed to that group, they lose business and are therefore quite loath to do so. While I too bemoan the loss of a "public square" role for newspapers, I realize that the loss of influence across the board applies as much to the opportunistic, lazy, greedy, racist or reactionary publications as it does to those with high moral purpose and strong ethics. In my opinion, it's a wash. Good luck to all.