Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why everyone should care about the decline of newspapers

From the March issue of The New Republic comes this long but worthwhile article by Paul Starr, Stuart professor of communications and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and the author most recently of Freedom's Power (Basic Books).

Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption)

Why American politics and society are about to be changed for the worse.

The lead: "We take newspapers for granted. They have been so integral a part of daily life in America, so central to politics and culture and business, and so powerful and profitable in their own right, that it is easy to forget what a remarkable historical invention they are. Public goods are notoriously under-produced in the marketplace, and news is a public good--and yet, since the mid-nineteenth century, newspapers have produced news in abundance at a cheap price to readers and without need of direct subsidy. More than any other medium, newspapers have been our eyes on the state, our check on private abuses, our civic alarm systems. It is true that they have often failed to perform those functions as well as they should have done. But whether they can continue to perform them at all is now in doubt."

The Poynter.org's columnist Romanesko quotes Starr today about this:

"Despite all the development of other media, the fact is that newspapers in recent years have continued to field the majority of reporters and to produce most of the original news stories in cities across the country," writes Princeton prof Paul Starr. "Online there is certainly a great profusion of opinion, but there is little reporting, and still less of it subject to any rigorous fact-checking or editorial scrutiny."

The rest of the story here.


  1. I can't believe newspapers are on the brink of becoming extinct. I never would have thought it. I have to say as great as the internet is, it cannot replace a newspaper. I think Paul Starr said it correct when he said that online stories have little reporting and don't go through the same "rigorous fact-checking and editorial scrutiny." Online stories get the information to us fast, but sometimes they aren't 100 percent correct. I know newspaper stories aren't either, but they tend to be closer, due to editors and reporters having more time to get the complete story. Plus, newspapers are just part of the history of American life.

  2. Yeah, when you consider the fact that the most influential invention of all time is largely considered to be Guttenberg's printing press...then this is pretty troubling news indeed.