On 27 February 2005 Michael Getler, Washington Post ombudsman, wrote about the decline of newspapers in our society. Circulation totals have been going down for decades; many people are happy getting their daily dose of gossip and commentary from TV, radio, web sites, and so forth. These are low-density media, fluffy in comparison to the printed words of reporters who have worked hard to gather and organize information, and whose conclusions have been filtered and sharpened under experienced editorial supervision. Getler concludes:
My guess is that the circulation decline will level off at what will amount to The Post's truly hard-core readership plus some newcomers. These are my kind of people. I'm one who has always been grateful to newspapers. I think they give people an edge, an advantage, no matter what it is people do. To me, the printed paper remains more naturally compatible with our history and habits, with reading and discussion, and with a sense of community and of discovery that often comes just by turning the page.
The blogosphere is a wonderful thing, also in keeping with who we are. But it doesn't seem so new to me because it does what readers have always done: read, write, analyze, complain, correct. It has always been true that if you make a mistake on even the most arcane matter in a newspaper, someone out there will catch it and let you know. The Web and the explosion of personal blogs, or Web logs and journals, have tapped into and greatly expanded that public reservoir of knowledge and understanding in important ways by challenging the accuracy of reporting and adding analysis.
On the other hand, nothing out there is going to supply you with the extraordinary daily content of The Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal or other fine newspapers.
Bloggers were the first to uncover some things recently, but that doesn't mean that traditional news organizations would not have come to those facts as well. The difference between newspapers and some of today's instant-delivery alternatives is that newspapers make use of time --- time for trained and experienced journalists to report, time for editors to get between reporters and the public, time to think a little longer about things.
That's key: the vital importance of making, and taking, time to think.
(see also Memorial Day (28 May 2002), ...)