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Newspapers aren’t All that Matters

Local news is good, be it delivered from community members’ blogs or in hardcopy on the driveway. In this week’s edition of the local newspaper, The Alpharetta-Roswell REVUE & NEWS, the publisher wrote an opinion piece entitled “Why newspapers still matter to you.” And yes they do matter, even to a ‘net-centric person like me. The REVUE’s just about the only publication that I read through cover-to-cover as soon as it comes. It provides a relaxed look at area happenings that I may have not otherwise stumbled upon, gives me a “heads-up” about things that may affect our community, and gives parents nice, scrapbook-worthy clips about things their kids’ organizations did.

It usually does, anyway, though this article was submitted and never ran. Probably just a lack of space not already spoken-for by an advertiser (something that’s not a problem on the Internet). As Hatcher once told me, “every picture I want to include is taking the space of an ad – and pictures don’t bring in revenue.”

Ray’s point though, is that he sees newspapers as a safe “anchor,” one “with a face that can be trusted to tell the truth … that you can recognize in your grocery store.” I’ve met Ray and his managing editor, Hatcher, but I’m pretty sure the rest of his ten writers are completely nameless and faceless to me. I suppose they’re all good folks, I just don’t know why I should “trust” those ten any more or less than the dozens of bloggers who’s sites I read every day.

Ray’s company delivers newspapers to about 75,000 homes, and according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project over 5% of Americans write on a weblog. Can you imagine if 5% of the homes here in Alpharetta, Roswell and Milton contained a writer as well as a reader? We could have over 3000 more “reporters” who’s occasional local news postings could be added to what’s created by Ray’s 10-person staff. I wonder how many of them would be someone I’d recognize at the grocery store. Ray asks “How can newspapers possibly compete [with the user-created Internet]?” I don’t think he should compete, but rather find ways to work together, to become an aggregator for his local community. Hey, I could even help out with that, having helped other companies use blogs as a part of their business.

As for “the truth,” well… I believe that there’s no publisher – of a newspaper, tv or radio station, news service, website or blog that has a monopoly there. As much as I like reading the REVUE & News, I wouldn’t want to rely on it — or any single source — to be the one and only place to get information. Every story is written by a human being, and everyone — no matter what medium we’re using to express it — has a viewpoint.

3 Comments

  1. Steven, thanks for your kind words. It is nice to get feedback like that.

    About my editorial: I think most of my intent was not to discount the net or tout the importance of newspapers per se.

    The concern I have in general is that the truth – regardless of the source – is critical to us as a country and as human beings. The “truth” is always available – somewhere, for sure. This is especially true because of the net.
    But “truth”, like the cure for cancer that we know is out there somewhere – and quite probably on the net “somewhere” does no good if we can’t find it or if we don’t recognize it when we see it.
    Right now, I am beginning to think that at this time newspapers are the most reliable, most consistent, most ACCOUNTABLE source. That’s all I am saying. And that is not necessarily good because the business model that allows newspapers to be viable is changing and in fact could expire. Who knows.

    While I frequently turn to blogs and related sources for information, I am very uncomfortable relying on that because there is no accountibility (yes I know how wikipedia works)and anyone can blog.

    That is we can still basically trust what newspapers write – for the most part. There is nothing else out there that can do the same thing, at least right now.

    That is frightening.

    Hope I made some sense to you.

    Ray

  2. It makes sense, I just don’t completely agree. But that’s ok, because polite disagreement and discussion is how ideas can grow and evolve.

    Anyway, I think that the newspapers can work together to evolve, embracing their readership as co-authors and using new technologies without loosing the accountability and trust that they’ve enjoyed for centuries.

    I do have some ideas on that front, and though they’re not completely thought out yet I’d welcome the opportunity to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about ’em.

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