Thursday, March 26, 2009

Would We Be Missed?

Interesting discussion on about newspapers. Specifically, a collection of engaged and involved people were asked the following questions: "Will you miss your newspaper when it's gone? How much will the decline of the paper hurt our democracy?"

The engaged and involved people who weighed in were overwhelmingly supportive of the notion of newspapers, which makes sense because, as I mentioned, they are a collection of involved, engaged folks. Many of them seemed to think that newspapers with "nonprofit" status might actually be a healthy model, acknowledging that the ravenous need for big profits have decimated journalism's primary goal.

A couple of keen observations:

Sylvia Lovely of the Kentucky League of Cities pointed out that "our community banks, community and small town newspapers are actually thriving" and that bigger papers in metropolitan areas, owned largely by out-of-town interests, are turning to the small-town models: "a local spin, informing intelligent, thoughtful citizens of the texture behind every story" rather than passing sound bites.

Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman and now a Princeton lecturer, noted that "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press," while both first amendment guarantees, are separate and distinct. "Think of the distinction as that between what we are permitted to say . . . and what we are permitted to hear. The difference is absolutely crucial to democracy, and that is why the decline of the newspaper is not an interesting phenomenon but a serious blow to democratic government."

Bradley Blakeman, a Republican strategist, said that market forces are the primary indicator: "You can't force upon the consumer something they don't want. The US Constitution guarantees free press, not a free ride."

For the full discussion, see

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