Lately everyone has been reading in the newspaper about how newspapers are dying. Or maybe everyone is reading about it online, which is the problem.
But other than people employed by newspapers, who really cares, or should? They had a good 300-year run in this country. Why be greedy and push for more?
As has been pointed out numerous times and noticed by pretty much everyone, it’s not like there’s less news now because newspapers are failing. The papers are going under; the news is doing just fine. So what if the Austin American-Statesman closes down? We have HuffingtonPost.com. And cable news. And more blogs than you can shake a web-crawler at.
Survival of the fittest. This is the next stage in the media’s evolution, and anyone who wants to stick with dead trees is outdated, sentimental or a fool, some say.
I like reporters. Them’s good people. But more importantly, them’s useful people. For all that everyone talks about the news (what it means and what should happen), reporters are the only ones to produce it. They go where ordinary people can’t go, talk to those whom ordinary people can’t know and ask the questions ordinary people would like to ask and have answered.
There’s a threshold of grossness in what’s printed called “the Cheerios test.” If a story or photo is too disgusting for a person sitting down at breakfast, it probably shouldn’t go in the paper. Well, the following extended metaphor fails that test, so if you’re eating now, you’ve been forewarned.
I work in an information bread factory. There are no farmers here, but there are some very good cooks.
The farmers – bureaucrats, researchers and statisticians – harvest all the raw information needed to understand some particular subject, filter away the chaff and give us the grains or dough. But consuming it in this form makes most people sick.
Someone has to bake it. If we had more time or expertise, we could do this for ourselves, but there’s nothing wrong with someone taking the flour and making us bread. This is why reporters get paid, to feed us information in a digestible way.
Most of us don’t have time just to be fed. Sometimes it’s very hard bread to chew and harder still to swallow. Chewing takes time, and we’re all so very busy.
We look for someone to chew it up and spit it back for us all mushy-like so it goes down easy.
It’s by no means ideal and far too common, but at least we’re digesting the stuff for ourselves, deciding what we think of it.
Unfortunately it seems most Americans, and probably most other people around the world, are so lazy we can’t even handle that. The bread that’s set out fresh and hot is ignored.
But it isn’t wasted.
There’s still some special folk out there with good teeth and strong stomachs, and these opinion columnists, talking heads and bloggers descend on the pile of food to digest it for themselves before scattering back off to their nests to vomit what they’ve consumed into the waiting mouths of all the rest of us.
On the Internet, there are often several levels of regurgitation taking place before it’s all over, bloggers linking to and quoting bloggers without even realizing it.
Luckily by that time, a person consuming this stuff knows exactly what’s important – and how they should think about it.
In a world without newspapers, we’ll still be well fed, but most meals will come secondhand, or worse.
And I, at least, find the prospect distasteful.