From the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press, to Reporters without Borders to Sunshine Week, to any of the dozens of Supreme Court cases protecting free speech and freedom of the press (from the Alien and Sedition Acts to the Pentagon Papers and forward), newspapers have been on the side of First Amendment protections, which you'd think would endear it to the universe of blogs.
But newspapers have the bad luck to be mostly published on paper, not online. The moniker "dead tree media" has stuck, and the smug self-congratulatory nature of opinion blogs have meant that virtually any mention of newspapers should be accompanied by a sneer and a reminder that newspapers are dying anyway, and soon, citizen journalists will magically replace newspapers.
The truth of the matter is, most of the criticism of the 'Mainstream Media' is fair and true. It just doesn't apply to newspapers. Broadcast media is emblematic of the worst excesses that bloggers bring to light, and are guilty of the most shallow, cheap, profit-driven coverage possible. All the while, newspapers are toiling away, producing hundreds of thousands of words of accountability coverage, investigative reporting, and in-depth journalism. When the blogosphere deigns to mention newspapers in their media critiques, they generally focus on the editorial page, completely ignoring the firewall between editorial and news coverage at newspapers, and focusing on a tiny portion of the newspaper's total coverage.
Of course, just because bloggers aren't always right about newspapers' shortcomings, it doesn't they aren't dying. Slate's Daniel Gross summed up the situation well: newspapers may be dying, but it's greedy owners sucking value out of profitable companies that are doing the killing. Most people don't know that newspapers are by and large very profitable. The dire predictions from analysts and media critics focus on the assertion that newspapers aren't profitable enough.
So perhaps bloggers and newspapers should bury the hatchet. After all, most bloggers are commenting on newspaper's original coverage, and if newspapers continue to be mismanaged, they may find themselves joining the ranks of new bloggers.
Of course, the prevalence of free content has given people the expectation that they shouldn't have to pay for journalism, and that's no doubt fueling people's abandonment of the core business (printed papers). But the real lynchpin of the problem is advertising. Newspapers have tons more readership than they've ever had from mere print publishing. It's the fact the online advertising doesn't pay nearly the same as local, print advertising. So you could say newspapers are thriving, but newspaper advertising is withering.
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