Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: Stopping the presses

Many take the availability of newspapers for granted, but if the current downward trend in the industry continues, then the news may soon become paperless. It may seem like newspapers are irrelevant nowadays, given the amount of people who get their news online, but having fewer newspapers raises questions about the future quality of journalism.

There are definitive advantages to keeping physical copies of newspapers in circulation. You might not seek out news online, but if there’s a newspaper sitting nearby, chances are you’ll read it. But it isn’t so much the hard copy that’s important; it’s the preservation of those ideals that go into making that newspaper.

News blogs are becoming a major source of information, and there are plenty that strive to be as accurate as possible, but newspapers have a much bigger stake when it comes to reporting truthfully. If a newspaper were to be caught fabricating a story, then it could lose enormous amounts of advertising money, unlike a blogger who has minimal expenses. A newspaper article goes through several fact checkers and editors to ensure that the final product is as accurate and objective as possible; a blog doesn’t necessarily provide this kind of safeguard

The decline of the newspaper industry has been sudden. In 2004, the circulation of The Boston Globe was on the rise, but in 2008, daily circulation fell 8.3 percent.’ It is unlikely that these numbers will ever be reversed, and the industry knows this, as evidenced by so many newspapers expanding online. But going online will not necessarily save newspapers from going out of business. Much of the content the newspaper put on its website is available for free, and it will be nearly impossible to convince readers to start paying for news.

If they can’t charge for content, then newspapers are going to have to increase their online ad revenue. Just like in any other industry, any given newspaper is looking to sell better than a rival newspaper. But when newspapers start shutting down and more major cities only have one newspaper, then everyone loses. Competition among newspapers promotes different viewpoints and keeps newspapers honest.

There will always be a need for skilled journalists to report the news. Americans aren’t turning away from news coverage, they are just turning to other methods for their news consumption. Newspapers may be cutting back, but they must find a way to adhere to the strict standards of journalistic integrity that are needed to keep the public informed.

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