<< by Catherine Potts on February 27th, 2009
For years, there’s been a fear that newspapers are dying. Now it’s a real deal for people in Denver, CO. Today, The Rocky Mountain News is shutting down. Just 55 days short of 150 years. It’s not the end of the world but it’s clear evidence that the news industry is changing.
Regarding the changing news environment, the move toward entertainment and sensational news stories has done some damage. I know that there are those out there that will make sure legitimate fact reporting won’t be lost but it appears it’s going to be a struggle. We need that, especially, now that traditional newspapers are dying or moving toward a different type of reporting. I think it’s safe to say that newspaper reporters are thought of differently than online writers. I feel this way anyway.
Objectivity in traditional journalism has waned in previous years and so the draw is toward those stories that are “the most shocking” or attempt to make more of a situation than really exists. It’s sensationalism and I think it’s probably what suits the generation that has the shortest attention span or is just too busy to stop and sit down with a newspaper. Gadgets that make online access easier have simultaneously opened up a whole new world for many but that positive also forces there to be a negative and it’s in that negative that forces papers, like the Rocky Mountain News (and other papers) to confront that their days of glory are behind them.
I feel somewhat guilty that I, too, pretty much exclusively read the paper online. If I’m in a coffee shop or at my parent’s house, I’ll sit down with the paper but it’s nothing I pay for. I get Newsweek and Time magazines at home but really, those aren’t the same and they don’t include local news. So I guess it’s the fault of the Internet junkies, like myself, who weren’t buying newspapers that helped bring down a local staple today. This Internet that provides a job for me and so much else must have it’s victims, I guess.
The newspaper that has been around before anyone in my presently living family (and not living) didn’t mean anything more than a trusty newspaper for quite a long time. Except several years ago, my family went through a pretty huge property struggle and it was several columnists at The Rocky (also The Denver Post) that helped get us the exposure and support we needed to get our side of the story out. It really meant a lot; still does. It’s in that acknowledgment that my family felt validated and listened to.
Newspapers mean more than just news about other people. Newspapers and the industry of journalism hold (and I feel we’re getting back to it) a responsibility to ensure democracy. Sure, there are newspapers that have gone in the direction of entertainment in an effort to stay alive but I think those papers aren’t as respected as those that resist the urge.
History can be tracked in newspapers and it’s history we can hold it in our hands. We’ve all gotten a hold of a newspaper for a certain event and held onto it. It’s difficult to do that same thing with a website, though information on websites is more easily obtained with today’s technology. Think back to Columbine and 9/11. People collected those newspapers because of the historical significance. If we have that paper, we are honoring the gravity of the historical event. The same goes for the election and inauguration this year; a way to hold on to history.
I think it’s fair to say that the Internet (the economy doesn’t help these newspapers either) is really starting to have an effect we can all actually see. It’s not coming, it’s here. Good and bad, life advances and there will always be casualties. I just hope the news industry can maintain its integrity while changing with the world.