Thursday, July 13, 2006

Are newspapers dying? Yes ... no ... are you gonna eat that?

Mark Morford is about as crazy as newspaper columnists come ... and he's good, too. His recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle about the future of newspapers was about as insightful ... and inciteful ... as any of the high-falutin' assessment you'll see from Wall Street vultures and far less acrid than most anti-media bloggers (is that redundant?) He wrote, in part:
Here is the thing: Everything is changing. Everything is changing at a rather unprecedented pace that excites and terrifies almost everyone involved until you want to hold your head in your hands and scream and drink and cry. Technology is moving so fast that you will soon need a wireless router for your digital toaster that also produces grappa and makes stock recommendations and plays MP3s through your fingernails. This is just the way.

But at the same time, I know of not a single pseudo-hipster who loves to download tiny Nelly Furtado music videos to her Nokia for 4 bucks a pop and then sit around a cafe with three other pseudo-hip girlfriends, all plugged into the phone and jamming to the song via headphones, like all those Verizon commercials seem to fantasize. Translation: You gotta maintain a proper perspective.

Are newspapers dying? If by newspaper, you mean the ink-on-paper products that are delivered to your front lawn by kids on bikes or magically appear overnight in the newsstand down the street, the answer is probably yes. Technology will certainly allow us to kill fewer trees, solve portability problems and tailor information more precisely for digital delivery, maybe within a generation or two.

But will the people who train to become fair observers who report back for the greater good also become extinct? Nope.

I've said it before and it bears repeating: From the dawn of mankind, we have valued those among us who can run to the next hill, look over and report fairly and accurately what they saw. Their observations help society make good decisions for itself by sharing trustworthy information that not everyone can witness for themselves. So before you wish for the painful death of the New York Times, ask yourself if you want to rely on your next-door neighbor or the blogosphere for crucial news information that could affect your life. Newspapers shouldn't be your only source of trustworthy new information, but your choices will be severely impacted without them.

And if I were as funny as Morford, I'd have said it in a more entertaining way.


SingingSkies said...

OK - Morford has funny, doesn't make you less entertaining. The mental image of having my vital information about what's happening in the world come from neighbors (especially thinking of some of my mom's neighbors) or the "only those who think like me" aspects of the blogosphere was worth a chuckle.

I personally prefer the tactile nature of turning the pages and wrestling with the folds and ink; however, when push comes to shove and I have no other source of news available, I head to the newspaper websites.

The harpers and bards who transmit the news from community to community will always be essential, even if a society takes a turn toward censorship. The forms have evolved over the centuries and will continue to do so. The desire to gather, impart, learn, mull over and sift through the information shared will still exist and need to be fulfilled.

I still think the paper form will be around for quite some time, simply because it's a reliable method of transmission across the generations. As we planned for items in the church's time capsule, CD's and DVD's were quickly ruled out because we just weren't sure the technology would exist to access the information 50 years down the road.

Now - back to working the crossword (if I could just get the page to fold right!)

Jill said...

one of my SIL's was a reporter/ editor/ publisher at various times in his journalistic career. He said the ad revenue was dropping badly. Now he writes for the Farm Bureau magazine in Waco. I guess that is better. He gets to travel, which he likes.