The newspaper industry seems to be headed in the direction of an obsolete business. Recent news has suggested that both small and large circulation newspapers are having to reduce journalists, shorten the breadth of the paper and provide their paper online for free access.
It has been reported that the San Francisco Chronicle might end production in the near future. If this comes to fruition, San Francisco could become the first major city in the United States to be without a daily newspaper.
During such bleak economic times, without any relief in the immediate future, dying commodities have less of a chance of remaining viable.
However, losing the presence of a daily newspaper would be devastating, and something that would have detrimental effects to the entire country.
To adapt to the growing role of the Internet in our daily news cycle, most newspapers have included an online service that is free for its users. While people are taking advantage of the convenience and no-cost online paper, less people are buying the printed version.
The bulk of revenue intake comes from advertisements from companies that buy space inside the paper. With less circulation and revenue coming in, there is less money the industry can spend on hiring journalists. The money they earn from subscriptions and cover price alone is not a sufficient source of revenue to keep these papers running.
The shrinking number of journalists leads to less room inside the paper to do in-depth reporting, a narrower focus of coverage and an overall decline of the amount of reliable, important news. This affects the prudency of how well our constituents understand current events.
Our democracy only functions as a true democracy when our electorate is educated and informed of the world around them, both at home and abroad. The printed newspaper has served as our standard of truth, and its reliability has not faltered through our toughest times.
Without this standard of journalism, where will people go to get reliable news? Furthermore, who will be imparting news and with what accreditation?
The Internet seems to be the first and last place to look at what has taken the printed papers place. The Internet has created a world in which news is a click away and is free to access.
The benefits of the Internet cannot be debated. It has opened a world of information that is accessible for millions of people on a daily basis. However, the Internet has also served as a double edge sword of sorts. Informing people on a mass scale is always desirable and crucial for a free society, but unreliable online sites providing news can prove dangerous.
It becomes dangerous when blogs are visited more frequently than trusted news sites. It becomes dangerous when unqualified people are passing information along that is slanted to fit a certain agenda. It becomes dangerous when our standard of news has been forced to disappear without a clear, reliable replacement.
Differing opinions is not the problem being addressed here, in fact it is crucial in a functioning democracy. The problem is that opinions are being held at the same level as proven fact. Facts that come from trusted journalists who have dedicated their lives in providing them to the mass public.
This phenomenon has grudgingly led newspapers to adapt to the times in which they function. Newspapers are lighter, less in-depth and possibly less frequent than they use to be, which is a large neon sign of things to come if things do not change.
Whether or not newspapers will become obsolete cannot be known for sure. What is known with certainty is that the printed newspaper will be very different, for good or ill depending on the willingness of the constituency to realize that reliable, trustworthy news is best in paper form.