It’s almost impossible to overstate the dire economic condition in which newspapers find themselves. Falling circulation, reduced advertising, and a generational shift add up to bad news for this unique and important industry.
In his book Knightfall: Knight Ridder and How the Erosion of Newspaper Journalism Is Putting Democracy at Risk, former Wichita Eagle editor Davis Merritt describes the difference between newspaper journalism and everything else we call news:
- Its content is not shaped by a limiting technology, such as broadcast with its time strictures and, in television and online, bias toward the visual and against permanence.
- Its usefulness is based far more on completeness and clarity than immediacy.
- Its claim on credibility is based on its length and depth, which allow readers to judge the facts behind a story’s headline and opening summary paragraph and then look for internal contradictions.
- It has intrinsic value and relevance to people rather than merely amusing or entertaining them.
- Opinions and analysis are labeled as such and are presented separately.
In Wichita we have recent examples of how newspaper journalism has influenced events. Recently the Wichita Eagle uncovered problems in the past of a person the City of Wichita was about to partner with on a real estate development. (See Wichita’s Faulty Due Diligence and Sharon Fearey Doesn’t Appreciate the Wichita Eagle for coverage.) Without the work of Wichita Eagle reporters, the deal would have happened. No other news outlet in Wichita had the resources or wherewithal to do the investigation necessary to report the story.
It appears that we don’t quite know how to support newspaper journalism in the age of the Internet. Let’s hope soon that someone develops a business model that lets journalism thrive in the future.
News You Can Lose (The New Yorker)
Do Newspapers Have a Future? (Michael Kinsley, Time Magazine)
Who killed the newspaper? (Economist.com)
The Newspaper of the Future (The New York Times, from 2005 featuring the Lawrence Journal-World)
The Elite Newspaper of the Future (American Journalism Review. “A smaller, less frequently published version packed with analysis and investigative reporting and aimed at well-educated news junkies that may well be a smart survival strategy for the beleaguered old print product.)