It might be futile at this point to tell you to read a newspaper every day. Any news-related publication, for that matter (Us Weekly doesn’t count).
Why waste your money on a pile of newsprint that’s cumbersome and loaded with unnecessary articles and ads when you can get an abridged version a whole lot faster from an Internet ticker, blog, 24-hour news channel or, more efficiently, not at all? Newspapers are too archaic for us, the high-speed information generation.
Newspaper Association of America statistics show that the average daily circulation of American newspapers has been steadily declining since 1994. In the competitive media market, publishers have long known that consumers are not exactly flocking to newspaper stands for entertainment – unless they’re into Sudoku. But only recently have publishers had to own up to the fact that, thanks to CNN.com and bloggers, they’re no longer the only reliable sources for breaking news and political commentary.
In facing these realities, many print journalists have realized they have to keep up with the pace of Americans because Americans aren’t going to keep up with them. And today, that means expanding blogs and discussing only hot issues and leaving out the slow news.
The Chicago Tribune has been particularly successful in keeping up with the pace of media demands by consistently publishing selections from its columnists’ blogs as well as launching RedEye – a daily tabloid that’s accessible free throughout Chicago – in 2002. Every issue gives readers quick news bites, a breakdown of what’s going on in Hollywood and the Chicago bar scene, and some sensationalist local crime stories.
The tabloid is perfect for today’s news market because it doesn’t bore readers with slow news or commentary – except for advice columns on scoring in Boystown – and it provides readers enough info on Victoria Beckham to entertain everyone at the water cooler. With this option, who wants to pay a dollar for another report on al-Qaeda or 2,000-word piece on Chicago public schools? Especially when you can just pick up the information later on a blog or television.
This is why telling you to read a daily newspaper would only fall on deaf ears. You already know that you don’t have to – newspapers have made it easy to not buy or read them – but there’s something daunting about the fact that our generation tends more often to get its information from TMZ.com or Nancy Grace than from a newspaper. It’s difficult not to speak up.
First and foremost, blogs cannot and should not replace traditional news and commentary. There is just not enough responsibility or sophistication in blogs for them to become one’s primary source of information. Satirist Stephen Colbert made a point about blog ethics recently on “The Colbert Report,” telling the creator of the left-wing blog Daily Kos: “The New York Times has to take responsibility for what’s on its editorial page and who writes its letters to the editor, you’re no different.” To that, the blog-master replied that he is indeed different because he provides a democratic, open forum for Americans to voice their own opinions, and what they say isn’t his responsibility, except in extreme cases. Bloggers just don’t have the sort of accountability that traditional journalists do.
Second, getting information only from CNN’s “Headline News,” tabloids or a website’s most read articles list instead of from a print newspaper fails to provide a rounded or balanced sense of the news. According to Nancy Grace, the only news events this summer were a couple of starlets going to prison (Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan), Michael Vick destroying the face of football, Hurricane Dean ravaging her favorite resort town, and oh yeah, a polygamist running for president.
Grace clearly has her priorities. By reporting them every night on her news program, she’s attempting to make them America’s priorities. With limited access to less sensational stories, Americans miss out on a lot of news.
Why have Americans chosen to switch over to such irresponsible methods of news coverage and political commentary? Aren’t we smart enough to know the difference between real news and blog lies or sensationalist drama? If only this country were so lucky. When blogs satisfy readers’ speculations and news reporters entertain watchers, the desire to turn to other news sources, like responsible newspapers, fades.
The bottom line is that if you avoid reading this or any other newspaper, just keep in mind that you’re doing yourself the disservice of being uneducated on important issues and worsen our journalism industry’s disarray.
Theresa Kennelly is an associate editorial page editor. She can be reached at