After being a daily newspaper subscriber, working in public relations for several years, and being an avid reader all my life, I stopped subscribing to my local paper a few months ago. It was a tough decision made easier by the declining quality and quantity of my local paper, The Raleigh News and Observer.
I fought it as long as I could. I watched the paper cut and cut the newsprint down more each few months due to declining advertising. Then the Business section was trimmed down to two pages and buried in the Local section.
I felt sorry for the staff that had worked hard to build this paper. I remembered snubbing the paper when I was a student studying journalism, electronic media (which in the 1980’s meant TV or movies). I used to stop by DJ’s bookstore and newsstand on Hillsborough Street and buy either The Charlotte Observer or The New York Times. I figured Charlotte as a bigger city so paper had to be better. I learned that was not the case when I moved to Charlotte a few years later and had to read The Charlotte Observer on a regular basis.
I remember back in 1995 when nando.net was the first online daily newspaper. It appeared that the newspapers were on top of this web technology thing that was emerging. That was not to be the case. Last week there was talk of bailing out the newspaper companies on talk radio. As much as I don’t want to save every dying industry in this country, I do think the newspaper will be missed if it goes away altogether.
The most likely scenario is that we’ll lose the local newspapers in the smaller markets. The larger media companies will survive due to diversification and other revenue streams. So what does it all mean? Well for one there will be no more letters to the editor, just comments to blog posts. Will we lose the investigative journalism that uncovers abuses of power, scandals and other major stories? Or will new communicators arise from Web 2.0 technology and we’ll just have to search for the right keywords? Will we trust these new sources of information as we trusted our newspapers?