Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Print shmint, or should we care if newspapers die

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Print shmint, or should we care if newspapers die

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

If a newspaper falls in a forest, should anyone care? People seem to think, with all the online news sources, including blogs, newspapers are obsolete.  Well, I used to be a newspaper columnist and now I’m a blogger and I’m here to offer this paraphrase: I know newspapers. Newspapers are a friend of mine and blogs are no newspapers.

In the short weeks since I started my blog, I’ve been doing a lot of online reading. I’ve found plenty of good blogs. Really impressive ones, well written and well intentioned. Plenty of bad ones, too. But there’s no blog, no collection of blogs--much as I like the Huffington Post--that takes the place of a newspaper. Even a newspaper online is barely up to the job. Boston.com, the Globe’s web incarnation, is so user-unfriendly that it does the paper no favors. I hate to carp, but when they generously added a link to my blog, I had to contact the editor for directions on how to find it!

There’s a scope of articles a newspaper tackles that’s hard to find anywhere else. There are knowledgeable writers who write great blogs about national politics, toxic banks, and health care. But no one’s digging into your town’s solid waste management problem. Local investigative reporting is something newspapers could afford; most blogs can’t.

Newspapers also land on the doorstep with a certain level of credibility. Facts have to be checked to make their way into a newspaper and if they aren’t the result is a printed “correction.” With a blog it’s hard to know if the “facts” are factual. It can be hard to figure out who among the zillions of bloggers has something of value to say and who is simply grinding an ax.

Here in Boston, where the Globe is teetering on the brink of possible nonexistence, Paul Levy, the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has used his blog to call for a “blog rally” in support of the Globe. Mine is among the outpouring of comments. People are arguing in favor of print or in favor of online sources. But the fact is it can’t be either or. Each has something unique to offer in giving us the information we need to remain participants in a functioning democracy. The question is how are newspapers going to survive to fulfill their responsibility. They may be dinosaurs that have yet to find sure footing in this new reality. But blogs are the not-ready-for-prime-time players, with an important role to fill, certainly, but without the ability to do it all.  Until or unless they are, newspapers in some form need and deserve our support.

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Anonymous JJ said...

I get a sinking feeling when I imagine the Globe coming to an end.
Blogs like this one are very important, and I congratulate Ellen for focusing our attention on this possible loss.

April 10, 2009 at 1:00 PM  

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