Media: Imagining a world without newspapers

For the newspaper business, the news

For the newspaper business, the news “stinks,” said Joe Garofoli in the San Francisco Chronicle. A new report by the Pew Foundation’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has found that the newspaper industry’s decline accelerated last year, with circulation dropping 2.5 percent and advertising revenue falling 7 percent. With revenues sinking, newspapers are cutting their reporting staffs and curtailing coverage. But, the Pew report found, there is a glimmer of hope. Newspapers, long thought of as technological dinosaurs, have been finally embracing the Internet, adding blogs and other features to their websites and connecting with readers in new ways. In fact, many of the top website destinations are traditional news brands such as The New York Times, proving that citizens still want what these companies produce—original reporting. There’s a problem, though: On the Web, readers get it all for free. “The audience still sees a lot of value in reporting about public life,” said Pew researcher Tom Rosenstiel. “What media companies need to do is figure out how to make money doing it.”

If they can’t, said Russell Smith in the Toronto Globe and Mail, newspaper companies won’t be the only losers. The public will suffer, too. As the Pew report found, the proliferation of news sites and blogs hasn’t led to more news being found and reported. In fact, as the Web grows, there may actually be less news. That’s because most websites simply “repackage” news found in traditional media, while bloggers spin and analyze it. Finding out what politicians don’t want us to know—whether in our hometowns or in Washington or Iraq—is hard work, and it’s expensive. When newspapers that now do that work shed most of their reporting staffs, or go out of business entirely, what will everyone else write about?

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