Posted by: Randy Allgaier | February 25, 2009

Newspapers- We still need them!

I love newspaper ink on my fingers. I love the way I can fold the New York Times vertically to read it while holding on to a bar on a subway or bus. I love magazines and I love blogs – but there is nothing like sitting down with a good newspaper and a cup of coffee. A perfect Sunday morning for me is spent with the Sunday Times- it is luxurious.

Today my city’s only newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle, informed its staff that it is in danger of closing. These words are being echoed in newsrooms throughout the country. Every major newspaper has taken steps to cut costs, some have closed and many are in danger.

Blogs and newspapers have very important roles that are different but complementary.

I consider blogging to be democracy in action- a sort of virtual public square. I feel that I and many of my fellow bloggers are responsible with facts and clear with opinions in a medium where one can be bombarded by fictions, rumors and mean spirited comments. We play an important role- we are a forum for thoughtful discourse. Unfortunately there are a lot if irresponsible bloggers who post some lies as facts without even a hint of a source and write in incendiary language that does nothing to help us engage in a productive conversation. Often one has to wade through a lot of garbage to find blog sources that are responsible and honorable. Blogs are a new way for us to engage in public discourse and it is an exciting development in our world even if some abuse this new technology to spew lies and hate. But lies and hate have been around long before blogs.

But I want to talk about newspapers- they are special. They have history, they have points of view editorially but most try to be unbiased in their reporting, and they have some of my favorite political writers. Where would I be without my weekly fix of Frank Rich or the biweekly columns of Gail Collins and Maureen Dowd? Where would we be as a nation without Woodward and Bernstein or the Pentagon Papers? But it isn’t just the history – it is the future.

The internet is a vast and exciting source of media- but many of us who use it and write for this new source of media also are concerned about some of the abuses we see. I’m not suggesting that newspapers are pure and noble and don’t make mistakes or sometimes have infuriatingly strong biases, but a good newspaper strives to tell a story accurately and in depth.

Most blogs posts are a couple of hundred words. An in-depth report in the New York Times or the Washington Post can be a couple of thousand words. As a blogger I rely heavily on newspapers to supply information to me that is sourced and vetted. Newspapers are an important part of my research.

Television is probably the most dangerous medium in my estimation. Nuanced and complicated policy issues are presented in sound bites and often news producers are looking for the entertainment value in something and distort issues in order to be outrageous and garner larger audiences. My question for the television networks- traditional and cable- are they interested in increasing their audience in order to educate more people or do they just want increased profits? I think I know the answer. Television news/entertainment has soften our minds and decreased our nation’s citizenry ability to think about issues that are not presented in bullet points and cannot be easily explained in less than 60 seconds.

Mainstream media- print and television have a lot to answer for especially their role in being complicit with the Bush administration in the run up to the Iraq War. Print media definitely has its flaws.

But I get concerned that we may be a nation that even with good blogs may depend almost entirely on television for news.

I know a lot of people agree with me and many read newspapers- but on line. The problem is that these newspapers’ websites do not sustain them and unless more people read the print version.

Our nation will be diminished if we lose our newspapers.


  1. The newspapers can argue all day about how the internet is killing their business – here is a clue boys – stop with the unmitigated bias and you might sell more papers.

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