Friday, March 20, 2009

Those who want newspapers to die are missing the point

Robert Brand writes:

Whatever lies at the root of the problem, I seem to be about the only person under the age of 45 who still thinks it would be a tragedy, and a danger to our way of life, if the newspaper became extinct.

Why, you may ask? Newspapers will disappear, good riddance and we’ll find our news elsewhere.

But that attitude is based on a misunderstanding of what a newspaper is and of what constitutes a successful newspaper. A newspaper is not a stack of newsprint with ink on it. That is just the delivery system. The newspaper is a vast organisation that gathers news, processes it and distributes it. If a newspaper dies, it is not just the stack of newsprint that stops rolling off the printing presses in the dead of night. The whole organisation ceases to exist, and with it its ability to gather and process news. Newspapers spend vast resources on gathering and processing news and the online media that are replacing them don’t, for the simple reason that the online media have not yet discovered a business model that can pay for a large news-gathering infrastructure. So when a newspaper dies, a huge news-gathering infrastructure dies with it, and the readers suffer.

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