It’s hard to imagine a day without newspapers; but it’s here. Not long ago the morning began with the driveway search for the paper and brewing of the first cup of coffee. It had been that way for as long as I can remember. It was comforting. Alone with coffee and the paper was my ideal way to start the day. Not so much now.
I no longer read the paper newspaper. Now it’s on-line. No doubt, it’s more convenient, up-to-date and searchable; but it’s not the same. My paper, for much of my life, was The Daily Oklahoman. That paper was owned by one man who was a legend in Oklahoma. During my high school days, a new paper, The Oklahoma Journal, appeared. I read them both for years. One was very conservative and the other was only a little less conservative (it is Oklahoma). I wrote a series of books about this time; The Muckraker series with Stanley Nelson. Most of the story is fiction but there are facts tossed in, too.
Newspapers are not what they were. Most of their power and influence has declined. There are still great papers and journalists, but many papers have become not much more than advertisement flyers, with the added bonus of sports pages. A mere shadow of what they once were. Of course a lot of the power and influence was used in ways that did not always benefit the country, only the owners, so maybe the decline was inevitable.
Not personally being involved in decisions can allow a person to be critical without really knowing the facts; but who decided that the best way to survive as a newspaper was to reduce the amount of news and increase the number of ads? That decision seems dumb on the surface but maybe, if your goal is to survive, you do things like that. Plus, you get rid of editors so most of the paper will have obvious errors in the little that is actually still news content. Everyone likes errors, right?
When I moved to Denver there were two major papers in the market; The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News. At that time, they were competing in a fierce price war and the competitive juices extended to the newsroom. Some of the best journalism I have read came from that overheated era of nasty competition. Cheap papers and great reporting—a reader’s dream. But no doubt a financial disaster.
Those papers used to be so heavy, even on weekdays, that you almost had to make two trips to the driveway. No doubt it hastened the end of many a delivery person trying to toss the equivalent of a couple of bricks every morning—to almost every house.
Success in many things is not to be the best, but being the most profitable. Today much of our news comes from people talking to other people who give great opinions but offer very little in actual news. The advent of cable news in effect killed much of the news gathering business and established our current culture of bubble seekers. I want to find the news that fits my beliefs—to hell with anyone else’s facts.
The larger national papers still seem to generate an abundance of great reporting but local papers have taken a significant step backward from what they were in the past. It would seem inevitable that most towns, even big ones, are going to be without an active news gathering organization in the future. I would imagine that soon they will abandon the pretense of being a “newspaper” and only have a sports section and celebrity stuff along with ads.
I’m adapting to the easy access of electronic news. The constant updates and endless drum of breaking news becomes tiresome but also addictive. While I think it is important to stay engaged and informed, we may be going a bit too far with the never ending drone of breaking news flashes.
Is it possible to know too much and therefore nothing at all? The volume of news seems to change its importance. My past morning ritual of reading about the news from the previous day in the early hours over a leisurely cup of coffee seems to be a fading memory; now it is constant updates on my phone about what happened in the last hour.
Maybe this morning I will watch the cartoon network for a few hours and just relax. Uninformed may not be so bad?
Thanks for being a reader!