I've read some articles recently talking about the accelerating death of the newspaper industry, and even one stating that it's not so bad. I suspect that the reason the person doesn't care is that they are a blogger who presumes that blogging will take the place of newspaper journalism, though they don't come out and say it.
That's a pretty stupid idea, frankly.
A journalist, simply put, isn't someone who sits at his desk and writes opinions about facts someone else brought him. He is someone who leaves his desk to conduct interviews, and investigates so that he can supply facts which were not previously available. Tthat is what we are losing every time a newspaper goes out of business.
I am not particularly nostalgic about print media. I don't feel it is necessary to read the news off paper, and I'm happy to just spare the trees we would otherwise be chopping down. But I am not at all happy that most of the people who are losing their jobs are not being employed elsewhere.
I regard today's press as being rather pathetic. They failed to hold Bush accountable in the early days of his term, and have not produced a lot of facts I really wish they would have. That they have done their job poorly in the past does not change the issue that we need people doing that job. Better to have an inept crew of people who are occasionally gagged by their corporate overlords, then to have no crew at all.
I would say that nothing reduces the quality of journalism like newspapers going out of business. In a town with several competing newspapers, a journalist who breaks a story about corruption is respected, and brings his newspaper some of that respect as well. But when only one newspaper exists, the lack of competition means that there is no reason for the owners to confront whomever would be angered by the story. Since they don't need to look better then the competition, they may be inclined to just play nice with powers that be.
If a story breaks about a politician stealing from the taxpayers, the owners must deal with retaliation for years afterward, but it probably won't help them sell many papers. When there is only one paper, the lack of competition causes degeneration.
It would be nice to think televised news is picking up the slack, but the reverse is true. Even as more news shows hit the air, more and more of it is dedicated to spinning news and opinions about it, while at the same time they fire people who were supposed to be bringing in new information. Televised news would rather pay millions of dollars to a few anchors who sit behind a desk, then employ people who will find out whether what the government tells them is actually true.
Instead, news comes in a can, presented to them by different politicians, or by corporations giving them public relations material. Our multimillion dollar anchors then open the can and discuss. If you'd just fire one or two of these idiots, you could hire dozens of professionals to investigate the truth of things, with spare change left over to cover their air fare to any trouble spot across the world. First class.
This is central to the problem with journalism. There is so little journalism on news shows today, that many younger people don't know what journalism really is. They think that Keith Olberman or Bill O'Reilly in some way represent the field, and haven't picked up a newspaper in years anyway.
And why should they? Who is around today who would break Watergate? Today's reporters accept what they are given by public relations people, and we find out about the excesses of the Iraq war years after the fact as a result.
What we need now is a model for paying people to bring real news to the internet. Once we achieved that, it's possible that we might actually be better off. Paper is expensive. If you reduce the expense of bringing news to the public, we might eventually find that journalists whose hands were tied by corporate entities, would be free to bring us stories we wouldn't have heard otherwise, because you wouldn't need millions of dollars for a press and buildings. Less money for a start up means more competition.
Unfortunately we aren't there yet. I hope someday we get there. And I hope that when we do, we will once again see a group of professionals who actually bother to find out the dirty little secrets that are kept hidden. It's a valuable service. Eight years of George W. Bush tells us just how important it is that we not take the government's word on everything. A strong independent group of journalists will do that.