Yesterday, I returned from 10 days in the mountains – fresh air, sailing, long hikes, lazy mornings. Nestled in the forest on a high mountain lake, our cabin has no cell coverage, and only dial up Internet. For my family summer vacation has come to mean forced withdrawal from electronic communication. But what I miss most when cloistered in our mountain retreat is the daily newspaper.
Friends joined us mid-week and parlayed the goings on of the outside world – the Obamas went to Russia, Billy Mays died, GM came out of bankruptcy, and Goldman Sacks was making more money than ever. Nothing earth shattering, but I still felt out of the loop not knowing.
We are living in the dawn of the digital age, a modern renaissance, but the decline and death of the daily newspaper really bothers me. I like holding a paper in the morning. I just absorb more info in my groggy morning state looking at news print rather than staring at a screen.
But the bigger issue is the news itself. The online sources that are displacing newspapers are largely opining about the news and not reporting. Researchers at Cornell analyzed some 90 million online articles during the election cycle last year – Aug to Oct 08. Of all the discernable story lines only 3.5% originated from an online source before appearing in a traditional news outlet. So 96.5% of all stories originated with traditional reporting and were later picked up and discussed online.
The implications are obvious. We need to find ways to preserve and support real reporting, real journalism. We can’t let reporting die with newsprint. Blogging as it exists today is not professional journalism. This is the challenge of the modern information age – come up with a business model that can support broad professional, diverse, independent journalism. Until that emerges, I will happily pay the recession driven higher subscription rates for daily delivery of the New York Times.