Christian Bell

March 3, 2009

I am concerned, from a democratic perspective, about losing good quality reporting, especially at the local level but also nationally. I am certainly part of the problem, as I read all my news online. I'm not sure if things are quite so dramatic as you suggest, though they surely are bad. However, I do think it is far too easy for us to not invest in our particular communities in an age of global media, and I agree that it is perhaps part of our jobs as the body of christ to know what God is doing in our own community.

As a side note, I think you used antipathetic when you in fact meant apathetic.

March 3, 2009

I wouldn't take it so hard. I think people (at least I know this is true of myself) are getting more information than ever before via the internet. Newspapers (nostalgia aside) were an information bottle-neck. You had to sift through the news that other people thought were important. Now you can just get the news you want anywhere you want it.

March 3, 2009

I'm sentimental about newspapers, too. But there are some things I won't miss about them if/when they die:

- environmental waste: using up that much paper and ink to make a product that the average person only reads a small fraction of is environmentally unconscionable.
- self-important top-down imperiousness
- fetish for fires and violent crimes
- schlocky sentimentality ("Local photogenic girl discovers magic of Christmas season")
- oblivion to religion. Our local GR Press's Religion section is an exception. But for the most part, the traditional news media doesn't 'get religion' -- see www.getreligion.org/?p=3

March 3, 2009

I too delivered the San Francisco Chronicle some 45 years ago. But, in theses times where half of what you read is adolations for some and lies about others, the New York Times and a few others, why read? Read your bible everyday with reverence towards those you may help one day. Talk to those in your community about what is needed to help those in your community. Then step out of the church and walk those streets, giving of yourself to others. I believe now that our own government and those who run it will not. Jesus did not depend on the governments of his time to give to the people as their greed shown through as our leaders greed shows through. You should give to your church with the idea of not getting anything back. In God's Grace John

Adam Lehman
March 3, 2009

a moral reason to no-longer read the newspaper:

1. newspapers waste paper, which is made from trees, which God decided to use to make oxygen, which God wired humans to live off of. wasting paper seems to be wasting the very fabric of who God created us to be.

2. newspapers only give limited reports. newspapers are limited in size and are therefore limited in depth and honesty. they must be comprised of quick soundbites and exciting headlines. even longer articles are limited. the internet allows any person to research any article with virtually infinite depth.

let's say you wanted to look at the effects of hurrican katrina on the formation of new government law. first off, that wouldn't come up in a paper because it is old news, you would be extrememly limited in your perspective of the event. also, since it isn't new "headline" news, the newspaper wouldn't carry a long, in-depth, fair article on it, it might make a several paragraph article.

newspapers pump out old news. anyone with TV or the Internet or a Radio knows that Lebron James scored 47 points. but the paper doesn't tell you that until the next day (i know that sports scores may not seem relevant, but they do offer a tremendous example).

March 3, 2009

Personally, I hope that newspapers stick around for a while. It's easy to argue that in today's media-rich culture, where we're informed of things nearly as they happen via the Internet and TV, the newspaper is redundant and slow.

However, the newspaper provides something that neither the Internet nor cable TV news can--a broader, community-based perspective.

Sure, it's great that you can choose which websites you visit, or which news channel you want to get your news from, but in doing so, you are purposely choosing a narrow perspective. Certainly, a single newspaper article will only present a narrow perspective as well, but it is contained within a larger context of a newspaper that most likely contains articles from dozens of reporters, all with different opinions and points of view.

When you watch CNN, or MSNBC, or Fox News, or Comedy Central to get your news, you know what perspective they're coming from. 24/7, it's consistent. And once you find your favorite (usually the one you agree with) you never need to tune-in to any other. It's the same with websites--find your favorite news site or your favorite blogs and you never need to pay attention to anything beyond those sites.

What I appreciate about newspapers is that they often challenge how I am already thinking about an issue or event. That's what good journalism should do. I'm afraid we've redefined "good journalism" as "journalism I agree with." And that's dangerous.

Sure, it's still possible to get online and access news from a variety of different sources, presented with a wide range of opinions, but I doubt that many of us do that. I know that I don't.

March 3, 2009

Adam, you wrote:
<<2. newspapers only give limited reports. newspapers are limited in size and are therefore limited in depth and honesty. they must be comprised of quick soundbites and exciting headlines. even longer articles are limited. the internet allows any person to research any article with virtually infinite depth.>>

This is really an argument against *television* news. Nothing is more "limited" than a 30-second news item that only tells the most flashy details of a story.
So I'd argue that without newspapers, and their ability to get more in depth and report the full story, that our knowledge of the community and world around us would be FAR more limited. How many people do you know who will see that 30-second story on the TV and then go to the Internet to research all the details in "virtually infinite depth"? Not too many, I'm sure. Newspaper reporters do that work for you.
Also, newspapers may be limited in size by how many advertisements they sell, but physical size *never* limits a true journalist's honesty.
In closing, I'd like to encourage you to check out this story, published in The St. Petersburg Times, and then tell me what other form of daily news media would go so in-depth to report on an aspect of its community.

March 3, 2009

Sorry, that Times link is here:

Pauli Carnes
March 3, 2009

I sometimes joke that I am so old, I can remember when journalism was an honest profession. My uncle published a community paper in Raytown, Missouri, and I remember him and my cousins hand-setting the type. I also remember touring the New York Times in my high school journalism class--they were so proud of their Linotype machines. For the last many years I haven't been able to read a newspaper without being outraged by the bias. Even the movie reviews contain comments that insult conservatives, Christians, the military, and/or Republicans. Yes, it's sad that we are losing the community forums that newspapers have provided, but the newspaper industry hasn't served the American public very well for at least a generation. We're a conservative people with a left-wing press. Now we are in a transition as great as the one started by Gutenberg, and I am greatly encouraged by what I see happening.

March 4, 2009

While I appreciate your concern about the demise of the local newspaper, I'm not convinced by your reasoning.

Yes, there is a lengthy tradition of both oral and written word within the church. But that tradition has covered many different media - initially through handwritten letters that were copied over and over, through monks producing elaborate, illuminated texts, through to the traditional printing press. Reading and writing isn't going away, it's just shifting medium again, to a digital form.

Likewise, the local newspaper is able to sustain itself through digital form too. Yes, it needs to work out how to redefine itself, but this is by no means impossible. Check out the work of the Lawrence Journal World. However, many local newspapers seem unwilling to try and make this shift, and I'm not convinced that there is a moral obligation for me to support a business that is unwilling to make itself profitable in the new economy.

March 4, 2009

For more than 20 years, I had been a newspaper reporter and editor. I have been "downsized" twice, the second time being last year when my newspaper was sold to another company and they opted for younger (read "less expensive") talent. I'm still looking for a job in the career to which I believe God called me. (Yes, prayer would be appreciated.)

That aside (and my bias fully admitted), I agree that we are losing something as a society with the demise of newspapers. As has already been pointed out, newspapers have a history of more indepth reporting than broadcasting. Unfortunately, the trend of the culture becoming more fast paced has led to a demand for sound bites and capsules (I'm waiting for someone to produce the "USA Today Bible"), and that's how many newspapers are surviving today.

I also blame our education system, in part, for the decline in reading in general. In my neck of the woods, we have a government-subsized school program in broadcasting, but no student newspaper...

While I lack specific training, I think I would enjoy Internet journalism, but the challenges here are legion. While there is much information available at the click of a mouse, how much of it is trustworthy? Everybody thinks they can be Woodward and Berstein (who?), but too many learned how to write through text messaging on their cellphones. Who will pay for professionally trained writers?

I'm not a romantic purist; newspapers have never been perfect and journalism has evolved over the years. But I think Christian is on target with the pont of "connecting" with the community (my career has been with smalltown community newspapers). The personal touch just doesn't feel the same in cyberspace...

March 4, 2009

I am a former newspaper reporter. My prayer is that newspapers can continue in digital form.
The reason a newspaper is good for a community is that the powers that be in a community need to know they are being watched. Government, business, education, health care, yes, even churches, and on and on need to know - consciously or unconsciously - that their actions will be exposed to the glare of the community through the local news organization.
And there's a reason we should not pick and choose our own news alone. There's a reason we should at least scan the headlines and get a sense of things happening, other than the ones we're only interested in. When done properly, a news organization should show us news we need to know. In the front section we should know about what's happening in Israel and Palestine, what's happening in Darfur, India, China, etc. We should know if the local city council tried to meet in secret illegally (as my city council did recently), we should be aware if there's a strange person approaching children on the street, we should hear about the kid who is raising money for children in Africa, or the teacher who sacrifices for his/her students.
As Egon Spengler said in Ghostbusters: "Print is dead." Print may be dead, but long may responsible, ethical news organizations live on-line.

March 4, 2009

I prefer reading in print. I subscribe to at least one weekly news magazine. There isn't a daily paper I need enough to subscribe, but I do read one now and then. I can't picture myself replacing books with Kindle. I like holding the page in my hand. Paper can be fully recycled, and the kind of wood used for paper pulp is fairly easy to regrow -- it doesn't require old growth forests at all. I toy with subscribing to the NY Times, because it is comprehensive, but the quality of news content is down, and opinion is up, so I check the web site instead. I wouldn't mind paying a small fee for that, say 10 cents an article, because good reporting requires money to pay good reporters and send them to the scene of the action. I would like to see more straight news, and less interpreting for me what the facts mean -- I can think for myself. I look up Supreme Court decisions on-line, because they way the media digest them is always wrong -- whether CBS or Fox, NY Times, or USA Today.

Teci Pulido
March 5, 2009

I do also sense the apathy of people sometimes, but just because people don't physically hold a newspaper in their hands doesn't mean they don't care. There are other forms of communication; making a "moral case" for newspapers is quite misleading.

I prefer reading in print and writing longhand, but the death of printed newspapers is not the death of communication. Technology is adaptive; God's Word can surely keep up (e.g., ThinkChristian, BibleGateway). So can quality, values-based communication (e.g. bloggers have been able to share the gospel to complete strangers worldwide). As involved Christians, it would be wise for us to engage others and adapt as well.

March 5, 2009

Newspapers are a medium for the content they contain. That content still exists, and there are still people who are interested in that content. Physical newspapers may not be that way we get that content, but those that care will find it in whatever medium it is transmitted. We should no more lament the passing of "newspapers" than we should the cassette tape, 8-track or VHS.

March 6, 2009

i read this again and the comments, which brings me to Mr. Hurst who stated that if you want a war I can get you a war. Was the USS Maine really bombed by the Spanish? The ones who run the newspaper companies are the ones who should realize that what is printed in a lot of cases is taken as the truth. As we know he is here to deceive us all, so be cautious about where it comes from and if it is not to promote someone or something that the person who wrote it wants. In God's Grace John

March 10, 2009

"Without newspapers on street corners, we no longer are told of important events happening to the people beyond our neighborhoods, nor are we told of the victories, casualties, triumphs, struggles, births, and deaths in our towns and cities."

I find this ironic - considering I'm reading your comments on the Internet - and get updates from my local newspaper via twitter.

March 30, 2009

also see "Newspapers’ decline is a sign of democracy’s health, not a symptom of its death" http://bit.ly/7VxC


"Newspapers, in contrast, are many things, but they are not democratic. They are hierarchical authoritarian structures designed to control and shape information. This is not to say they don’t provide a societal benefit—their content contributes to the public discourse. However, how is having a few major media outlets deciding “what is news” democratic, or even good for democracy? The newspaper model isn’t about expanding free speech; it is about limiting it to force readers to listen to what the editor prescribes. When is the last time you had an opinion piece or letter published in a newspaper? There are many more voices in America that deserve to be heard aside from Ivy League educated editors and journalists."

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