Put simply I would hate to see newspapers “go away”. It’s not likely that there will be no newspapers someday but it is likely that the consolidation and attrition in the industry will continue.
Many in the online space so “So what?! Goodbye and good riddance!” I don’t. The reason I don’t has nothing to do with the nostalgia of newspapers. If I never got ink on my hands again from flipping the pages I would survive. What does scare me, however, is just how the news is actually uncovered and then reported if there was not the front line of the traditional media.
A recent study in the Baltimore metro area showed that while there is significantly fewer traditional media outlets in the area the remaining ones are still responsible for the reporting of 95% of the “first run” news. The New York Times reports:
Looking at six major story lines that developed over one week last July, 83 percent of the reports in local news media “were essentially repetitive, conveying no new information,” said the study, by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, an arm of the Pew Research Center.
Despite diminished resources of established news organizations, “of the stories that did contain new information, nearly all, 95 percent, came from old media — most of them newspapers,” it said. “These stories then tended to set the narrative agenda for most other media outlets.”
95%? That’s a little scary if you are trumpeting the end of the newspaper medium. From an advertisers perspective it’s easy to pick on the industry but from a news uncovering and development perspective we need to be careful to not cut our online noses off to spite our face.
So is Baltimore indicative of the rest of the country? Maybe, maybe not. What is of interest though is that people crave information. They crave details on events. Let’s forget about the mindless blather of the celebrity world. If you want something that superficial and fluffy then anyone can produce it. It doesn’t matter. If a mistake is made in reporting about Oprah Winfrey’s weight we’ll all survive. In things that truly impact lives it is still the job of “journalists” to report and to hopefully give the information without bias (I know, I know that doesn’t happen but one can dream….). It’s at that point that bloggers and the like can comment and help shape the news.
Where are you on this one? Would it really be a good thing if newspapers and their reporting dried up and went away? Are there enough credible and scalable online news agencies to cover the amount of “stuff” that is generated and deemed important in each new 24-hour period? I don’t think so. As a result, I am a little concerned about what might actually happen if the online world got its wish and made the newspaper industry disappear.