I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my last post. Let me answer the primary ones:
No, I haven’t given up on newspapers. I subscribe digitally to three: the News & Observer, the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Why these three? I admire the national and political coverage, as well as the editorial views of the Post and the Times. They both hold the powerful to account, and our Republic desperately needs that. I read the N&O because it attempts to do that statewide. Plus, because of its shared ownership with the Charlotte Observer, I get the benefit of interesting stories the Observer produces.
Without the News & Record, how are you keeping up? The News & Record emails me its major headlines each morning and afternoon. I scan it and usually the headlines satisfy my curiosity about the news. Occasionally I will follow up by going to the website. That, combined with Twitter and Facebook announcements, is often enough. Is it everything I should have? No, of course not. But the N&R staff is too small and stretched too thin to be able to give me everything I should have.
What did you mean when you wrote, “Soon, there won’t be a daily paper in the third largest city in North Carolina. It’s time to imagine whether that matters.”? Precisely that. Can the N&R effectively cover a county with a population of a half a million with six news reporters? As highly as I rate the skills and work ethic of the journalists still there, I say no. I fear it will become close to a ghost newspaper, with “the quality, quantity and scope of their editorial content … significantly diminished. Routine government meetings are not covered, for example, leaving citizens with little information about proposed tax hikes, local candidates for office or important policy issues that must be decided.” My colleague Penny Muse Abernathy describes it well here.
So, as the paper’s coverage declines, what will the area’s citizens do for local news? For many, they’ll do the same as they’ve always done. Recently, most of the people in the county haven’t gotten the paper. For the ones who depend on the paper, they’ll turn to television, social media, word of mouth. They’ll be a void, but I’m suggesting that there is a void right now. And now is the time to start imagining the future.
What is your imagination telling you? My imagination tells me that good government is at risk. Occasionally, I think some rich local investors will buy it and help bring it back, but that’s a pipe dream. I suppose it’s possible for a website to spring up that has employees covering the news, but that feels like a pipe dream, too. There are the weeklies — notably Triad City Beat, which does a good job for what it does. But, honestly, my imagination is tired right now.