The Decline of News in the "Post-Literate" World

One of the more obvious manifestations of global and local forces plays out daily in print newspapers. And, like other arenas dealing with these sometimes opposing forces, the print newspaper is facing challenges. Nowhere is this more evident than in the local newspaper in particular. The vast array of news outlets online---from the web versions of larger newspapers to the opinionated blogs---brings these local papers closer and closer to the brink of extinction. Add to this the enormous decline in advertising revenue due to car sales and the mortgage crisis, and many papers will probably go under.

An insightful recent article from delves into the "decline of newspapers" in general, arguing that this decline "is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print." It makes several interesting points, one which hits particularly close to home:
Those who rely on the Internet gravitate to sites that reinforce their beliefs. The filtering of information through an ideological lens, which is destroying television journalism, defies the purpose of reporting. Journalism is about transmitting information that doesn't care what you think. Reporting challenges, countermands or destabilizes established beliefs. Reporting, which is time-consuming and often expensive, begins from the premise that there are things we need to know and understand, even if these things make us uncomfortable. If we lose this ethic we are left with pandering, packaging and partisanship. We are left awash in a sea of competing propaganda. Bloggers, unlike most established reporters, rarely admit errors. They cannot get fired. Facts, for many bloggers, are interchangeable with opinions.
Without disagreeing with the article's concern over the media circus, nor lessening the plight of the newspaper industry, it is important not to fall into the same dualistic argument that has plagued journalism since the turn of the last century. "High" journalism has always touted its superiority by claiming to be objective. At the turn of the last century, it scoffed at Yellow Journalism and sensationalism; at the same time, literary realists turned up their noses at Sob Sisters and sentimentality. Today, "high" journalism rails against blogs, OMG, TMZ, and the like. This conflict is, in a sense, as old as the printed word. The "masses" have always been "intellectually impoverished" from the perspective of intellectuals.

The problem, it seems, lies more in the economic and political forces that are downsizing the variety of news outlets available. Objectivity is a myth. If nothing else, people are writing.
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  1. Anonymous7:46 PM

    awesome post! The article you mention does make an interesting point, although one that can be argued from the stance of the generalization of the public and the average web-surfer/news reader. if anyone can remember the days before the web, different print news papers were known as being liberal or conservative - or any one of a number of dualities that would fit here - and people have always chosen the media outlets that most interest them/align with their own views. Does the media shape minds, or do minds shape what they want to see?

  2. Anonymous1:32 PM

    seems like a fundamentally unanswerable question.
    It's interesting also to think about how the new media is shaping ways of being. Take, for example, the kid who was on the cover of the nirvana nevermind album. he was recently featured on yahoo, and something he said really stuck out. he was waxing nostalgic about the 90s (he was only born in like 93 or something), and said that nowadays, kids who want to start a band will simply play a video game about rock stars, whereas kids in the 90s would have actually gone out and started a band.

  3. Anonymous1:32 PM

    check out this article in the nytimes that certainly adds to this discussion:


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