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Newspapers and Time

Hattip to Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.  Any work of entertainment becomes a cultural artifact that historians may use to analyze a point in history:

How quickly new technology can radically alter societies.  In three decades newspapers have gone from being an essential part of daily life, to being an industry on life support, kept alive by the inertia of a rapidly aging readership.  My father would pore over our local daily paper each day, and usually work the crossword puzzle and the cryptogram contained in each paper.  After I grew up I subscribed to The Chicago Tribune.  After the Trib endorsed Obama in 2008 I cancelled my subscription.  However, I realized at the time that I hadn’t been reading much of it in years, the paper usually arriving after I went to the law mines.  Almost all of my daily reading of the news was being done over the internet.  When my partner retired from the law mines in 2010, I immediately cancelled the firm’s subscription to the local regional paper that the firm subscribed to, and which I hadn’t been reading in several years.  I still get the local town paper, which is a weekly freebie, and where I place my legal notices, but it is usually my secretaries who bring any local story of note to my attention.  In some ways it is sad seeing an enterprise with such a long pedigree being one with Nineveh and Tyre, and in some ways I think most of the ink-stained wretches richly deserve their fate, but like it or not, we can do many things with time in this Vale of Tears, but we cannot freeze it.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

6 Comments

  1. Kierkegaard described modern society as a network of relations in which individuals are leveled into an abstract phantom known as “the public.” The modern public, in contrast to ancient and medieval communities, was a creation of the press, the only instrument capable of holding together the mass of unreal individuals “who never are and never can be united in an actual situation or organization” Thus, society had become a realisation of abstract thought, held together by an artificial and all-pervasive medium speaking for everyone and for no one.

  2. I still like to have a newspaper in my hands or laid out on a table or desk, just because that’s what I’m used to, I suppose. But the reality is pointed out by the graphic above on advertising revenue. I wonder, as an aside, was the pattern one of steady increases before the apex was reached in 2005-2006? In any event, the trend since then is pretty ominous for the print news business. Was the decline triggered by the smartphone revolution, or just exacerbated by it?
    As far as editorial content is concerned, perhaps I am overly sensitive or critical, but I am 64 and I can’t recall any time in my life, even while some major editorial pages were still fairly conservative overall, when “big media” news reports were not written with a discernible Leftist bias. I therefore conclude that the rot had begun before I even reached the age of political consciousness. I certainly cannot find a large city newspaper today that does anything other than recite Democrat National Committee talking points in both its op/ed and “news” sections. Truly conservative columnists are rare indeed, and the vast majority of the local commentators here in the “blue island” of Dallas/Fort Worth are as lefty as they come. Even the sports section has become contaminated with the SJW disease, as have about a quarter to a third of the comics. All of which is to say, I won’t really miss the newspapers when they finally die.

  3. If I was going to read the AP and Reuters feeds, I’d go to their web sites or add them to my RSS reader, I wouldn’t pay the equivalent of an expensive MMO subscription for a limited selection of (usually bad) re-writes of the same.

    There are some papers that do a good job– the Capital Press is the only one I know of, but they can’t be the only one; they do real reporting, by people who either know what they’re talking about or who to ask, aimed at providing value to people who do this for a living.

    Note, I don’t have either RSS on my feed, because they both do such a cruddy job that if I hear anything interesting, I have to go and do the reporter’s job for basic fact checking.

  4. I think it would be more of a pity if quality hadn’t decayed so severely. I sometimes read the online sites of British papers because they’re still doing reporting American papers won’t do.

    What I expect to happen is that metropolitan newspapers will be replaced with a small number of digital news services which can afford to employ correspondents while operating on low margins. Given what’s happened over the last century to word merchant occupations, that’s likely going to amount to a news oligopoly run by the next generation of seedy characters of the Mapes / Rather variety. These might be supplemented by local Patch sites which provide local news. Where you have a critical mass of readers, you might still have independent local papers. I know of one (small town) set which evaporated and one (suburban) set still going.

  5. “If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” – Mark Twain.

    Aside from (weekly) Barron’s, I don’t read the papers – in print or on-line. I seriously dislike reading lies written by people that hate me.

  6. Foxfier-Thank you re The Capital Press-will check it out. One good thing about the demise of books and book publishing-you can get “used” books at Amazon often for the price of shipping plus a few cents or a dollar. We all know, those of us who have been around more than a half century, that books and papers will be back in some form-because in a decade or so we will know for certain that looking at screens shrinks brains and causes diarrhheea, and holding a cellphone near one’s head causes tumors to grow and one to tend to vote democrat. Go to any mall still open and watch the masses of screen zombies who see none of the SALE signs in the stores that are still open. Want to destroy the families and kill a society? give everyone from 4 yrs old up a free cellphone. Guy McClung, Texas

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