Friday, February 27, 2009

The New Meaning of 'Newspaper Obituaries'

Every time I read one of these newspaper obituaries (a term with new meaning) -- Rocky Mountain News Ceases Operations -- I am saddened and shocked at what is happening to this once vibrant industry.

As the paper stated on its fairwell message, Goodbye, Colorado

"...We hope Coloradans will remember this newspaper fondly from generation to generation, a reminder of Denver’s history – the ambitions, foibles and virtues of its settlers and those who followed. We are confident that you will build on their dreams and find new ways to tell your story."
I'm not confident that we as a society know what those new ways will be.

The press has been called the fourth estate as it is a vital check on our government.

Can a democracy remain healthy without a strong press? Can "the press" be in the hands of just a few media powerhouses? We need diversity of reportage.

Who is going to fill the gap when newspapers die? The pulp news of CNN, MSNBC and Fox? I hope not. The AP? Not, if they have no member newspapers to pay for their reportage? Perhaps we need the BBC model of taxing the people to pay for journalists. Not sure Americans are willing to pay for that.

Online news publishing needs a new model and probably one that requires micro-payments of readers. Information can't be free. It costs money to produce it. And you get what you pay for.

And don't tell me "blogs". Blogs, with almost no exceptions, write commentary based on articles written by professional journalists. they are not out working beats, getting leads, interviewing public officials, and the like. Will they fill this gap? I can't see that happening any time soon. What's the business model to pay for that?

I'm reminded of a poster in my journalism class in college with a caption stating: "If the press didn't tell us, who would?"

Who indeed?

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