a tipping point?

“Newspapers struggle to avoid their own obit,” writes the Christian Science Monitor. George Will call us “as anachronistic as the clatter of horses’ hooves on urban cobblestones.”

Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen all wonder if we’re at a “tipping point” — or maybe, as Jarvis puts it, a “melting point.”

In the Observer, Richard Brookhiser is already writing newspapers’ obituary:

Meanwhile, we say farewell to a great body of lore. Catholics have mourned Pope John Paul II. Journos will mourn their stories. I think of the ones I have collected, at first- and secondhand, even in my short and marginal career. Memorable headlines: “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.” “HEADLESS BODY FOUND IN TOPLESS BAR.” National Review, irked at the wall-to-wall coverage of the Pentagon Papers, writing its own and fooling The Washington Post. John Corry writing up the premiere of 42nd Street, at which David Merrick announced Gower Champion’s death at the curtain. Claudia Rosett, reporting from Tiananmen Square. Rewriting this column on Sept. 11, 2001. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, all their successors up to John F. Burns—good night, guys, good night.

Gosh — I feel a little foolish and trepidatious disagreeing with the likes of these guys. But…

I work in a newsroom, and I gotta say, I don’t think it’s “a bit like working for the East German Politburo, circa 1988.”

I’m more of the opinion that if newspapers didn’t exist today, someone would have to invent them. Yeah, sure, declining circulation, bleah bleah bleah. Newspapers have been under pressure from TV for years — that’s nothing new. We’re still very profitable. And our entire product is available for online, for free — and yet people are willing to pay to have it delivered to their door! Or for a copy they can read on the subway. That’s pretty cool.

Absolutely, there are changes the mainstream press needs to make — like correcting errors more readily. Reporters and editors need to interact more with readers, in a more public way. I’d like to see media websites experiment with “trackback” features, to join the great “blogospheric” community. And sure, we should be more transparent.

But these are not “wrenching changes.”

And yes, yes, yes, we need to pay more attention to blogs! Acknowledge their power and influence.

But look: bloggers are not going to climb the stairs of a some run-down housing project in the East Flatbush to knock on doors, or race to a fire at four in the morning. I have — and I’ll tell ya — you have to pay people to do that sort of thing.

For all the complaints about bias — some of which are certainly legitimate — I’d much rather get my news from someone who tries to be fair and objective than someone with no such aspirations.

UPDATE: Ezra Klein discusses this post here. I left a comment in the com

3 comments to a tipping point?

  • nancy

    “But look: bloggers are not going to climb the stairs of a some run-down housing project in the East Flatbush to knock on doors, or race to a fire at four in the morning.”

    Maybe. But, bloggers aren’t going to forge documents, help terrorists kill Iraqi Election Workers (ala the al-AP back in December), work with terrorists directly (ala that cBS guy busted for working with the terrorists last month), deliberately overweight polls to the Dems advantage, openly give aid and comfort to terrorists and Kim Jong-Il, and try to drive down perceptions of the economy (but only when the GOP runs things).

    Or, what about al-LAT changing an al-Reuters story about that Italian Communist Reporter in such a way that it makes the US look bad? I guess that’s the 1st Amendment at work.

  • You can find my take on the AP and the Iraqi election workers execution here, here and here.

    I responded to the LA Times thing on Patterico’s comment section here and here.

    You said that bloggers aren’t going to “overweight polls to the Dems advantage … and try to drive down perceptions of the economy (but only when the GOP runs things).” Errr, do you find bloggers like TalkLeft and DailyKos more or less reliable on things like this than the NY Times and the Washington Post?

    Or are the bloggers you find credible just the ones you’re in ideological agreement with?

  • [...] t-seeking entrepreneurs supposed to come in and steal their business? I mean, for all the talk about newspapers going the way of the dodo, profit marins are still around 20-30%. If we’re doing such [...]

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