I started this post as a lark. I was going to use this image of my coffee mug with the faded lettering from the Newseum to make a point about the condition of both newspapers and the Newseum.
It was an easy joke.
Then I remembered this column by Ken Doctor about newspaper consolidation in which he quotes someone as saying 2020 could be “the final dance of the newspaper industry.”
Well, damn, that’s dark, but it’s difficult to argue with. McClatchy newspapers have already announced that it’s discontinuing Saturday coverage, meaning the papers will no longer be daily.
But as Kristen Hare of Poynter argues: “Local newspapers, specifically those that are locally and independently owned, are not dying. They are changing. It’s rough. But it is not death.”
She could be right — there clearly are tough-minded efforts– but it all feels too rosy to me.
Then Emily Bell writes that we need local news to combat the rise of disinformation sites pretending to be local news: “In the 2020 election cycle, we are already seeing a rise in hundreds of phantom “local news sites” set up by political operatives to churn out automated stories that fit particular talking points. The resources at a local level to counter these operations are shrinking.”
Last week, Tom Rosenthiel wrote about the high standards of reporting: “We have infinitely more storytelling tools today, and the news is often more accurate because we have the ability to assemble more data. Journalism has become more empirical and less anecdotal. Reporting can also be done more openly, with the public part of the process.”
But he points out a truism: There are fewer reporters today covering fewer stories. And communities suffer.
Local news may not be dying, but it ain’t what it used to be. And in my community, I don’t see anything rising up to take the place of a well-staffed newspaper.
The vanishing newsprint edition that comes to my house and homes across the country will soon be history. We’ve known that for 10 or 15 years.
And I’m going to get a new coffee mug.