Internet killed the newspaper star, Internet killed the newspaper star (or not)

A lot of talk lately about the future of journimalism, especially of the newspaper variety. In The Nation, John Nichols and Robert McChesney say that newspapers & journalism are vital to democracy, so newsgathering organizations should be supported by taxpayers. Their article doesn’t strike me as totally idiotic; only somewhat Quixotic. David Sirota, in SFGate says that newspapers’ wounds are self-inflicted, because they insisted on giving us stupid crap instead of journalism–and television & internet are just inherently better media for delivering stupid crap. As captured & discussed at Crooks & Liars, CNN had an interesting discussion (also featuring Sirota) about newspapers in decline. If newspaper-style reporting is to continue (and we’re fucked if it isn’t, they say), local reporting has to be the core. Over on First Draft, Athenae has been posting some good stuff about how greedy scumbags, not the internet, killed journalism. (Athenae has lots of cool postings on this topic.)

Meanwhile supercool meta-ironic emerging-intelligence socio-observer & collective wisdom trendspotter Cory Doctorow Clay Shirky (seriously, who can tell those two guys apart?) sayz, like dig it, cats, this Internet thing is so far out that none of you squares can begin to grok its significance, but the newspaper is dead, man, so be cool & get hep to what’s happenin’, OK?


  1. John,

    Here is the interesting bit. If you look at really old newspapers that predate the civil war period the idea of investigative journalism did not even exist. So for about the first century of the Republic’s existence journalists as ‘vital to democracy’ did not even occur and yet we seemed to have a functioning government.

    Was not till the Hearst chain came to prominence that journalistic watchdog efforts took hold. Not that civic duty was the driver; it just happened that sensational stories sold papers, then as now.

  2. Oh, if only some progressive blogger/media activist had warned us that if we did not repent our evil ways we would be driving ourselves into extinction. Oh wait . . . .

    I’m feeling the Cassandrafruede.

  3. John Mc,

    I confess that I’m not well-versed in pre-civil war newspaper content. Certainly much of what was “press” in the early days of the republic amounted to what we would call blogging today: some facts, lots of opinion, and, depending on the source, any amount of falsehood and truth-twisting mixed in. But certainly *something* of value was attributed to the function of the press from the earliest days of the Republic. Or do you think that the First Amendment was written more or less clairvoyantly, *in anticipation of* Hearst?


    Yes, I should have given you a link or two, but I was too lazy. I do give you props for citizen journalism. I mean, some of what you do here is opinion, but a fair amount of it is honest-to-God reporting on stuff that few people, or nobody else is covering. I’m thinking of the auction stuff and the state legislature stuff in particular.

  4. I think the death of newspapers is not at all derived from journalism or lack thereof. A newspaper’s PRODUCT may or may not be journalism, but it’s BUSINESS is advertising. These completely disconnected functions worked together only because of the happenstance that they were distributed through the same physical channel of trucks and kids, with a comfortably high barrier to competition. When that distribution system lost its unique characteristics, the business model fell apart.

    The internet and other technologies are changing the characteristics (or the relevance of those characteristics) for many distribution systems, including money, automobiles, and energy. The changes in the newspaper are just the beginning.

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