The decline of newspapers.

I was sitting in a coffee shop yesterday working on a passage in the novel that I’m writing. The men at the table next to me were talking and I could clearly overhear a lot of their conversation. It wasn’t that they were loud, it was just that the place was pretty empty on a Thursday afternoon. It sounded like one of them was a writer and he had a presentation to give at The Music Hall that evening. I didn’t let myself get too distracted, especially as I started to figure out that he wrote on subject matter that didn’t interest me and may have held opposing views. I tried to tune them out and continue writing.

One thing that they said that did caught my interest addressed the decline of newspapers. This was a subject that came up when I studied media studies in college. The attitude then was that there was definitely some sort of change coming but there will still be papers, those companies will still be putting out material. The rise of news on the Internet wasn’t going to kill the newspapers. This still seems to be true. Businesses have been suffering a lot over the last few years because of the general economy, so it’s hard to gauge just how much of newspaper companies lose to the Internet. It’s hard to find a paper now that doesn’t also have its content online.

What does strike me as a sign of suffering is the fact that many of these online editions have started charging people to read the stories. Surely they get enough money out of advertising. Plus, the physical newspapers can be read for free at libraries and coffee shops all the time, so why are they aggressively going after the consumer online? Again, general economic trends may have a part to play in this. But this could also be interpreted as “If you can’t beat em’, join ’em… but make up for the financial loss along the way.” What may be a way to try to make up for loss funds can also turn way the customers, leading them to the free sources of information that the newspaper companies are afraid of in the first place.

The Internet is hardly a reliable source of information by any means. Anybody can post whatever “news” they want to. Newspapers have promoted themselves as more trustworthy. Yet with the rise of the Internet and the information age in general we find out that the newspapers aren’t as trustworthy as they once seemed. Besides that, why should we have to pay for news? What exactly were we paying for?

What we were paying for wasn’t necessarily the news, but the style in which it was presented. Now the same reliability can be made available online for free. Advocates of online news can say that it’s presented by people who are more earnest in their ambition to get the information to the public. Either argument holds about as much weight as far as I can tell. What it comes down to is convenience. Over time a news outlet can make a name for itself, become scrutinized, and the consumer can make a more valid judgement of whether or not they can trust it. In the information age this process can go by much more quickly than it used to.

I have a hard time taking blog as news unless they are news about the person writing them. This one is a good example of that. I often say if I’m unsure about something, or I provide a link to a site that I got my information from. If you want to call my blog a news site, then I find that weird, but at least think of it as the “Op/Ed” section of a newspaper. There’s an interesting thought. Considering the ease of navigating the Internet, and the fact that you’re able to view it all on the same computer, we can think of the entire Internet as one newspaper.

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