Friday, February 27, 2009

Death of a newspaper


I don't necessarily advocate for the death of newspapers — though I do think they have failed to adapt and evolve, and are victims of natural selection and hubris. But it saddens me to see papers slowly dying, especially when I hear a newspaper like the Rocky Mountain News is shutting down.

I haven't kept up with The Rocky for a while, but at one point it was one of the best small newspapers in the nation. Unfortunately, with all the things negatively affecting the industry right now, The Rocky may be one of the first fatal victims of the current newspaper crisis. Worst of all, I don't think they'll be the last.

As I've told other people, I think journalism — vital and necessary — will survive; I have my doubts about newspapers.

It's a hard thing to admit. In a lot of ways, I still think of myself as a journalist, even though it's been years since I've worked at a newspaper. Many of my friends continue to work at a paper, and I'm sincerely worried about them. But do I think papers deserve to survive? That's the hardest question, and my answer is a solid, "I don't know."

Papers can survive, but only if they recreate themselves to the point they're almost not newspapers anymore, not in the traditional sense. Newspapers, essentially, haven't changed much since movable type. It's time for newspapers to reinvent themselves.

You can read more reactions to the death of the Rocky Mountain News at Editor & Publisher, the Washington Post and Poynter, which goes the extra mile by offering the staff of The Rocky a helping hand. As an interesting sidebar, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a story yesterday about the value of newspapers and the idea of Seattle as a "no-newspaper town." It's a painful, but necessary, concept to consider; otherwise, newspapers will just be continuing to bail water out of a ship that's already sunk.

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