The end of an industry is always the beginning of its replacement. When the typewriter went out, it was replaced by the personal computer which could do everything the typewriter could do, and more. The replacement is supposed to improve on the original.
We are now losing the industry of print journalism to its replacements: the online newspaper, the talk show, the entertainment news industry, and the blogs. Whereas, print journalism held itself to a high standard of objectivity, investigation, and fact checking, the vast majority of internet writers self-publish their opinion (and sometimes their solicited opinion). Their views are not expert, nor are they generally supported by interviews with experts. Instead, what passes for news is either the author’s views unmediated by an editorial staff or even a publishing company, or a biased entertainment news industry whose main concerns are spectacle and the money that spectacle brings. The collapse of print journalism has started a race to the bottom for news reportage.
We must remember that print journalism served a purpose: hard investigative reporting brought facts out into the light for public consideration. It created a check against corruption and crime in both the public and private sector. The print journalist is a kind of American hero who watches out for the little guy and makes sure that we know what big government and big business are trying to do. That’s why the freedom of the press is the first amendment. The framers of the constitution knew its importance in throwing off the shackles of tyrants. Do we honestly believe that this job is performed now as adequately and responsibly by bloggers and the roundtable mediators of barking matches?
And so, where an industry once held its members to high standards, we must now take up that challenge. If we cannot expect today’s news media to police themselves so as to write with the same integrity as their print predecessors, it is now up to us to demand that integrity by becoming discerning readers and viewers of this new news. Some of these new news sources are trying to separate themselves from the pack and to operate with a, now uncommon, respectability. We must give our attention and support to those media outlets that operate with the same standards of that bygone industry.