Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Internet Is Not My Newspaper

The Internet is not a newspaper
Yesterday, the local online sources were announcing that the Ann Arbor News will fold in July. Today's news confirmed it. It's a sad commentary that a city the size of Ann Arbor cannot support a daily newspaper. I know that things have been tough on newspapers all over the country. But I wonder is it truly symptomatic of declining advertising revenues because of the web that some papers are going under, or is it the result of larger syndicates and big corporations that have only the shareholder's interest, and not that of the people that they serve? Just as with Pfizer, that pulled up stakes and left Ann Arbor (after pumping millions into new facilities here)-- Ann Arbor was a dot on the map. The head offices had no more affinity to this town than anywhere else.
So, my question is this: Has globalization and a faceless corporate bureaucracy spelled doom for our country? When companies are no longer part of the community -- whether its the banks that have your mortgage, the owners of your newspaper, or the company that bought out your local big employer -- are they sensitive to local problems, and being so large, are they incapable of actions that might actually be beneficial? Smaller companies can often be more innovative, more adaptable to localized conditions.

On top of all that... what about the photographers, the writers, etc., that make a difference by being the people that make journalism one of the aspects of our democratic society. A blogger can do only so much. But the power of the printed page has made a huge difference in our society. A free and independent press is essential for public discourse and communication to all levels of society. Depending on getting your news off the web is not the same. It shuts out more people than the pundits want to admit.

Surely, Ann Arbor can support a daily paper, if it were locally-owned. Perhaps even a weekly edition, or whatever the Ann arbor News morphs into. Maybe some group just needs to restart the Ann Arbor Argus and give it a go. Maybe I'm just an idealistic idiot, but Washtenaw County needs to be served by a paper. We are not, and never will be covered by the Free Press or the Detroit News unless it's UM sports or some tragedy befalls someone.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not against news on the web. It's a good adjunct to a paper. It's not, and never will be a replacement for the tactile and easily scanned newspaper. Besides, I can't light a fire in the fireplace with my laptop.
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