Sunday, May 10, 2009

Obama: Newspapers 'wrestling' with changes

At the White House Correspondents's dinner last night, President Barack Obama told many jokes. But he did take a moment to comment on the status of newspapers in the country today.

"Across the country, there are extraordinary, hardworking journalists who have lost their jobs in recent days, recent weeks, recent months," he said. "I know each newspaper and media outlet is wrestling with how to respond with these changes. ... Not every ending will be a happy one."
Obama is right to worry; the newspaper industry has often been the sole voice of accountability when it comes to the government (think Woodward and Bernstein with Watergate). With its disappearance, there may be a void in whom would be able to access government records, meetings, etc. and reporting the information to the people.

Bloggers like to argue that they could fill that void. However, many bloggers get their information from -- you guessed it -- online editions of newspapers. Cable news channels could fill that void as well, but would only reach a select audience (those with cable).

Newspapers are important for another reason; they do more local sleuthing for a story than any other medium. Without newspapers, we lose that dynamic.

It'll be interesting to see how papers will adapt to the changing times. In the meanwhile, however, go out of your way, maybe once or twice a week, to purchase a newspaper at your news stand. You'll be supporting a dying industry, and might also learn something.

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