Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More on Newspapers - Fishwrap?

If you visit here often, you'll know that I keep an eye on what is written about newspapers. I do so because newspapers require readers, because they are a 19th century innovation (at least in terms of mass production and adoption) struggling into the 21st, and because both those challenges seem to me to have relevance to libraries. "People will always read print books" is a mantra we all hear, but increasingly, at least for the sister media of newspapers, that is not assumed.

In a longish essay called "Are Newspapers Doomed," (published in Commentary), the author Joseph Epstein suggests some reasons that print newspapers--at least as we know them--may not continue much longer. He links the change in appetite for print newspapers to, among other things, the blogosphere:
[T]he young are hardly alone in turning away from newspapers. Nor are they alone responsible for the dizzying growth of the so-called blogosphere, said to be increasing by 70,000 sites a day (according to the search portal In the first half of this year alone, the number of new blogs grew from 7.8 to 14.2 million. And if the numbers are dizzying, the sheer amount of information floating around is enoughto give a person a serious case of Newsheimers.
Astonishing results are reported when news is passed from one blog to another: scores if not hundreds of thousands of hits, and, on sites that post readers’ reactions, responses that can often be more impressive in research and reasoning than anything likely to turn up in print. Newspaper journalists themselves often get their stories from blogs, and bloggers have been extremely useful in verifying or refuting the erroneous reportage of mainstream journalists.
But this isn't an essay on journalism versus blogging. It's much broader and perhaps, a lament for the glory days of newpaper journalism: "About our newspapers as they now stand, little more can be said in their favor than that they do not require batteries to operate, you can swat flies with them, and they can still be used to wrap fish."

Well worth reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For me print newspapers are small, complete universes that are easy to navigate. Reading a newspaper requires nothing more than a good source of light, preferably from the Sun. I do not have to click or type, just flip the page and browse. I have a hard time reading the day's news in its disembodied form on LexisNexis or Proquest. It's hard to find something interesting. The indexing is sometimes unpredictable or lousy. Often articles that I saw in print are missing from the databases. Yesterday I wanted to send an article that I saw in the weekend edition of FT to a friend. It was not there. Don't get me wrong, online versions of newspapers are useful, but I prefer to read the print version and hope they never go away. I was born in 1977. Does that qualify me to be a member of "the young" that actually prefers print newspapers, or am I too close to 30 and therefore not to be trusted?

Bryan Campbell