More Bad News for Our Local Newspapers

Source: Bacon’s Rebellion.

Kerry Dougherty laments the slow and intractable decline of our local news industry, especially The Virginian-Pilot.

I share her sense of grief, but I have to say that I like the Internet better than the local newspaper. In my youth, the daily paper was the epitome of news publishing, both in terms of craft and technology and as a social institution. Being an epitome, daily papers naturally attracted high talent. The Pilot was like that. Some of its writers — Friddell, Vincent, Madry, Dougherty — were among the best in the nation.

Still, a local paper is like a box of a certain size. It can only contain so much on any given day. The Internet is like a box of infinite size. It can contain everything every day, including past and present. Plus, the Internet contains no shortage of the best writers in the world. For these reasons the Internet is clearly better in my view than any local newspaper could ever be.

Except for the puzzles on the comics page. For decidedly McCluhanesque, possibly tactile reasons, they just don’t translate well to electronic media.

5 thoughts on “More Bad News for Our Local Newspapers

  1. “ For these reasons the Internet is clearly better in my view than any local newspaper could ever be.”

    Except when it comes to local investigative reporting. Without local journalists that have developed contacts, we would never know much about actions by police, city councils, casino agendas, fraudulent companies, conflicts of interests, etc.

    That is the core mission, now more than in the past, of local reporting.

    I am of the belief that every government official should be looking over their shoulders every day to see who is watching. Take out a local paper and the shades are drawn. The same hold true in the private industries, especially regarding publicly funded contracts.

    This is magnified at every step up to and including the federal government. Without whistleblowers, leakers and others with information, we would have no idea what is happening except what the government tell us. And those same whistleblowers/leakers are dependent upon the press to both get the story out and protect them with the publicity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RE: “Except when it comes to local investigative reporting.”

      Perhaps, up to a point. The Internet has also brought live video streaming of school board, city council and General Assembly meetings, as well as public access to government records. It has empowered a new kind of investigative reporting by citizen journalists, which is evident at blogs like Tidewater Forum and Bacon’s Rebellion.

      I’m not convinced we have lost anything irreplaceable with the decline of our local newspapers.


    1. “When I was a young man, people were honest. Politicians were trustworthy. Newspapers were the paragons of truth and justice for all”. Grumpy Old Politicians (GOP).

      Yeah, and I used to walk 10 miles to school, in 2 feet of snow, uphill both ways, year around.

      I grew up in a city that had dozens of daily papers in many languages, some with several editions everyday.

      Scandal sheets, crime on the front pages, opinions that were bought and paid for and just plain crap was not unusual. But they beauty was that if you were not happy with the Journal American, you could buy the World Telegram and Sun or the Herald Tribune, international as well as domestic. Or El Diario, or Yiddish papers, Chinese, Italian, etc.

      The point was that in a free market economy with specific freedoms of the press and speech, volume is important because that was how money was made. Quality was in the eyes of the subscribers or the regular buyers from a myriad of newsstands on most corners or in subway stations. But out of that volume came truth, or most of it anyway. It just took some sifting and sorting. It also helped that most Americans trusted the government to do the right thing in the decades right after WW2. Vietnam killed that notion because it lied to us so grievously.

      Essentially, little has changed except the internet allow you to compare instantly what the stories of the day wee and how they compared. There are still scandal sheets like the NYPost are still much the same. WSJ is still true to form. As is NYT. Some liberal, some conservative, some muckrakers and some outright PR for the rich and famous.

      The wonderful part is that we have so many organizations and with minor, tragic exceptions, our journalists, good and bad, are not targeted for beatings, killings or arrest.

      And without this kaleidoscope of media, we would have to rely on the government and corporate public relations scripts which are invariably either lies or at least partisan hyperbole.

      So we can complain all we want, but without the press, we are screwed. It is unprecedented (or is that “un-presidented”?) for our president to vilify the media as the “enemy of the people” by a man who has zero regard for our Constitution and its constraints on the office. Unfortunately he has managed to convince about 2/5ths of the country that he is the only source of truth. And this is from a man who lies about crowd sizes.

      So in my opinion, the media, warts and all, is so precious to our freedoms that we should be grateful we have as much information about the inner workings of our government.

      But like soldiers in the Army, we can still complain and always will.

      Liked by 1 person

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