It seems everyday there's news of yet another US newspaper shutting down or choosing to become exclusively web based.
A couple of obvious causes come to mind for this phenomenon, the economy and to a greater extent the evolution of the internet as a convenient and
immediate source of information. As the internet has become accessible to more people and connection options such as mobile phones, twitter, etc, are
more widely available, it seems that printed newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur. This is of course nothing new, anyone with a little
foresight has probably seen this coming many years ago with the introduction of 24hr "news" networks.
For the purposes of the point I'm trying to make in this post however, causality is really not that relevant.
More important to me is the slow death of what is a significant and dare I say necessary aspect of our culture.
Don't get me wrong, the internet is a wonderful tool, as humans we get to share and discover information in unprecedented quantity. Everything one
can imagine is but a google search away. It is however that very process of "searching" that can also paradoxically limit access to wide range of
"valuable" knowledge and information.
Let's go back to the rudimentary process of newspaper reading.
A newspaper contains a wide variety and cross section of information. World, national, local news, arts, entertainment, sports, editorials,
food/cooking, travel, business, etc. The ritual of perusing a newspaper, even if one chooses to forego some sections and stories, still makes the
reader aware of their existence. It exposes the reader to information in the the wider context of our world. In fact it is a great starting point
for further investigation on particular topics and stories on the internet.
It's not that one should substitute the other, it's just that I believe that both formats are equally valid and in fact can often complement each
One of the challenges of using the internet as an exclusive news source is that one often doesn't know what to look for, or one isn't aware of
source validity, or how to relate different versions of the same story into their proper context. Of course there are sites out there like ATS that
compile news stories, still it is almost always with a specific underlying focus at play.
The worst application of the internet search feature is when it is used singularly to validate one's own preconceptions. An example of this would be
a republican always looking for information on worldnetdaily
or a democrat doing the same exclusively on mediamatters
. Same applies to
the Fox News/MSNBC dynamic.
The potential problem with the internet as a singular news source lies in the users ability to basically single out information which may be
intellectually convenient them and choose to bypass that information which may challenge their preconceptions.
Of course not every one does that, and many do it sub/unconsciously, but it is the nature of the thing that one has to become aware of its trappings
before one can use it as a holistic tool.
Newspapers provide no such trappings. They are a daily snapshot of our world near and far. Yes they are messy and dirty, horrible for the
environment, and are subject to the same MSM trappings and agendas that all other news sources have ....
But I also believe they are great and valuable aspect to our social lives and one that I will sorely miss them once the inevitable last copy is
Though we may not know it now, and until we become better aware of how to use that little search feature, I dare say we will all miss them a great
PS. I know, I'm old.
[edit on 3 Apr 2009 by schrodingers dog]