Thinking outloud: The Death of Newspapers?

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It’s worth reading the December 14, 2006 edition of the Sacramento News and Review. Jeff vonKaenel, owner and CEO of the News and Review, writes about “why corporate management of daily newspapers spells disaster for the news business, community debate and our way of government.”

I’m kind of ambivalent about his point. Unlike a lot of bloggers, the first paper I read in the morning is the New York Times, followed by the Washington Post, and then the National Journal’s Hotline (which as a political junkie, is my bread and butter). It is only after reading those traditional news sources, that I start looking at blogs and other new sources of information.

“People may be getting their news from various sources today: radio, television, online. But most of the original reporting–even that which ends up on radio, TV and the Internet–is done by daily newspapers. Daily newspapers also do nearly all of the investigative reporting that monitors how government spends its citizens’ money and watch over how the government works to protect its citizens’ interests.”

I have to wonder about print elitism (the reverse of print envy), and it brings me back to the point that I made in response to Davis Enterprise Columnist Richard Harris a couple of months ago–is the daily newspaper really on the cutting edge anymore? Many of the biggest political stories of 2006 came not from daily newspapers, but from bloggers and other independent sources that then filtered up to the mainstream press.

The control of the US Senate came down to a couple of Senate races that hinged on blogger and youtube reporting. Webb does not win in Virginia without “Makaka.” George Allen was a sure-bet until a kid following Incumbent George Allen around with a hand-held uploads a video onto youtube and suddenly Allen is in hot water.

And maybe this is part of the point that vonKaenel is trying to make by looking at the impact of corporate ownership.

But I think it is something much bigger and it goes the heart of the problem that we have in Davis. How do people get access to information about local politics? They read about it in the Davis Enterprise. That is largely the only source for information. If they do not cover it, people do not know about it.

The Davis Enterprise, their editor Debbie Davis, and their staff are the gatekeepers of information that affects the people of Davis. And that gatekeeping power is tremendous.

This blog has broken what a number of people who I have spoken to believe to be, major stories. Are they being reported? Not really. If the Davis Enterprise does not consider it news, it does not get reported. And that’s the problem that we are seeking to breakdown.

The other factor is that daily newspapers are passive. Now they are learning to adapt. The major papers now have blogs to give their readers more interaction. People do not want to passive absorbers of information, they want to react it to and participate.

This is a new technology, but as more and more people start participating through blogging, they will become more comfortable with the process.

So while I disagree with vonKaenel, I also sympathize with his vision and his beliefs.

But at the end of the day, I just think he’s wrong when he says:

“The cost is more than the thousands of jobs lost in the newspaper business in just a couple of years. It’s more than the future value shareholders will never receive. It’s the price we’ll all pay for losing the institution that represents a major foundation of a working democracy that really scares me.”

Democracy will survive without the daily paper. News sources will evolve and adapt. The news business will adjust. And I think we’ll be better for it, because no longer will corporations and editors and people with the resources to print have a monopoly on the gatekeeping of information.

That’s a strength for democracy, not a weakness.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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28 thoughts on “Thinking outloud: The Death of Newspapers?”

  1. davisite

    Blogging and Davis go together like peanut butter and jelly… An educated electorate, passionately involved in their local politics and their city’s future and wanting to “make a difference”… it’s a natural.. The Davis Enterprise pales in comparison and often goes directly from my driveway to my woodstove as twisted newspaper kindling without stopping for GO. People’s Vanguard of Davis is where it is at!

  2. davisite

    Blogging and Davis go together like peanut butter and jelly… An educated electorate, passionately involved in their local politics and their city’s future and wanting to “make a difference”… it’s a natural.. The Davis Enterprise pales in comparison and often goes directly from my driveway to my woodstove as twisted newspaper kindling without stopping for GO. People’s Vanguard of Davis is where it is at!

  3. davisite

    Blogging and Davis go together like peanut butter and jelly… An educated electorate, passionately involved in their local politics and their city’s future and wanting to “make a difference”… it’s a natural.. The Davis Enterprise pales in comparison and often goes directly from my driveway to my woodstove as twisted newspaper kindling without stopping for GO. People’s Vanguard of Davis is where it is at!

  4. davisite

    Blogging and Davis go together like peanut butter and jelly… An educated electorate, passionately involved in their local politics and their city’s future and wanting to “make a difference”… it’s a natural.. The Davis Enterprise pales in comparison and often goes directly from my driveway to my woodstove as twisted newspaper kindling without stopping for GO. People’s Vanguard of Davis is where it is at!

  5. davisite

    Doug.. your morning internet fare mimics mine but… with the exception that my morning coffee is always accompanied by democracynow.org. My wife jokingly(maybe?) says that Amy Goodman is the only woman who she is jealous of.

  6. davisite

    Doug.. your morning internet fare mimics mine but… with the exception that my morning coffee is always accompanied by democracynow.org. My wife jokingly(maybe?) says that Amy Goodman is the only woman who she is jealous of.

  7. davisite

    Doug.. your morning internet fare mimics mine but… with the exception that my morning coffee is always accompanied by democracynow.org. My wife jokingly(maybe?) says that Amy Goodman is the only woman who she is jealous of.

  8. davisite

    Doug.. your morning internet fare mimics mine but… with the exception that my morning coffee is always accompanied by democracynow.org. My wife jokingly(maybe?) says that Amy Goodman is the only woman who she is jealous of.

  9. Doug Paul Davis

    Honestly if I did not have to read the paper in order to do this blog, I’d have cancelled my subscription to the Davis Enterprise a long time ago. My paperboy thinks he’s Joe Montana, but he cannot hit the broadside of a barn. There’s a paper still sitting up on my roof, I should take a picture of it just to show people just how much the kid missed by.

    This is something to be said for reading the newspaper, but it is kind of hard to keep yelling at the walls–the neighbors start to get suspicious.

  10. Doug Paul Davis

    Honestly if I did not have to read the paper in order to do this blog, I’d have cancelled my subscription to the Davis Enterprise a long time ago. My paperboy thinks he’s Joe Montana, but he cannot hit the broadside of a barn. There’s a paper still sitting up on my roof, I should take a picture of it just to show people just how much the kid missed by.

    This is something to be said for reading the newspaper, but it is kind of hard to keep yelling at the walls–the neighbors start to get suspicious.

  11. Doug Paul Davis

    Honestly if I did not have to read the paper in order to do this blog, I’d have cancelled my subscription to the Davis Enterprise a long time ago. My paperboy thinks he’s Joe Montana, but he cannot hit the broadside of a barn. There’s a paper still sitting up on my roof, I should take a picture of it just to show people just how much the kid missed by.

    This is something to be said for reading the newspaper, but it is kind of hard to keep yelling at the walls–the neighbors start to get suspicious.

  12. Doug Paul Davis

    Honestly if I did not have to read the paper in order to do this blog, I’d have cancelled my subscription to the Davis Enterprise a long time ago. My paperboy thinks he’s Joe Montana, but he cannot hit the broadside of a barn. There’s a paper still sitting up on my roof, I should take a picture of it just to show people just how much the kid missed by.

    This is something to be said for reading the newspaper, but it is kind of hard to keep yelling at the walls–the neighbors start to get suspicious.

  13. davisite

    Doug….You probably already have discovered them but ,if not,try adding Guardian Unlimited and Independent Online edition to your internet favorites. These two British newspapers help to bypass the censorship(editorial and reporting self-censorship) that we have to deal with in the US
    media. The AP newservice( Reuters is a little bit better) serves as the resource for almost all non-local articles in the Enterprise. I find AP about as professionally unbiased as Pravda was in the Soviet heydays(alright.. THAT may be a bit of an exaggeration).

  14. davisite

    Doug….You probably already have discovered them but ,if not,try adding Guardian Unlimited and Independent Online edition to your internet favorites. These two British newspapers help to bypass the censorship(editorial and reporting self-censorship) that we have to deal with in the US
    media. The AP newservice( Reuters is a little bit better) serves as the resource for almost all non-local articles in the Enterprise. I find AP about as professionally unbiased as Pravda was in the Soviet heydays(alright.. THAT may be a bit of an exaggeration).

  15. davisite

    Doug….You probably already have discovered them but ,if not,try adding Guardian Unlimited and Independent Online edition to your internet favorites. These two British newspapers help to bypass the censorship(editorial and reporting self-censorship) that we have to deal with in the US
    media. The AP newservice( Reuters is a little bit better) serves as the resource for almost all non-local articles in the Enterprise. I find AP about as professionally unbiased as Pravda was in the Soviet heydays(alright.. THAT may be a bit of an exaggeration).

  16. davisite

    Doug….You probably already have discovered them but ,if not,try adding Guardian Unlimited and Independent Online edition to your internet favorites. These two British newspapers help to bypass the censorship(editorial and reporting self-censorship) that we have to deal with in the US
    media. The AP newservice( Reuters is a little bit better) serves as the resource for almost all non-local articles in the Enterprise. I find AP about as professionally unbiased as Pravda was in the Soviet heydays(alright.. THAT may be a bit of an exaggeration).

  17. Anonymous

    I like reading the newspaper. I so often disappointed by the brevity of the local paper. The Bee at least lasts through a cup of coffee or two.

    I’ve been reading the Daily Democrat online. The Woodland citizens seem to complain as much as Davis about its paper, but at least it covers the goings on in town and around the county and at each of the High Schools in town every week. And I’m starting to be more interested in what the county is doing as a result.

    The Daily Democrat website publishes pictures of little kids dressed up on Halloween, pictures from both sides of the Woodland/Pioneer football game, the Christmas parade, etc.

    The Davis Enterprise posts the audio tapes of a juvenile arrest of a local teen for hit and run. That pretty much sums up the Enterprise’s view of community support and involvement.

  18. Anonymous

    I like reading the newspaper. I so often disappointed by the brevity of the local paper. The Bee at least lasts through a cup of coffee or two.

    I’ve been reading the Daily Democrat online. The Woodland citizens seem to complain as much as Davis about its paper, but at least it covers the goings on in town and around the county and at each of the High Schools in town every week. And I’m starting to be more interested in what the county is doing as a result.

    The Daily Democrat website publishes pictures of little kids dressed up on Halloween, pictures from both sides of the Woodland/Pioneer football game, the Christmas parade, etc.

    The Davis Enterprise posts the audio tapes of a juvenile arrest of a local teen for hit and run. That pretty much sums up the Enterprise’s view of community support and involvement.

  19. Anonymous

    I like reading the newspaper. I so often disappointed by the brevity of the local paper. The Bee at least lasts through a cup of coffee or two.

    I’ve been reading the Daily Democrat online. The Woodland citizens seem to complain as much as Davis about its paper, but at least it covers the goings on in town and around the county and at each of the High Schools in town every week. And I’m starting to be more interested in what the county is doing as a result.

    The Daily Democrat website publishes pictures of little kids dressed up on Halloween, pictures from both sides of the Woodland/Pioneer football game, the Christmas parade, etc.

    The Davis Enterprise posts the audio tapes of a juvenile arrest of a local teen for hit and run. That pretty much sums up the Enterprise’s view of community support and involvement.

  20. Anonymous

    I like reading the newspaper. I so often disappointed by the brevity of the local paper. The Bee at least lasts through a cup of coffee or two.

    I’ve been reading the Daily Democrat online. The Woodland citizens seem to complain as much as Davis about its paper, but at least it covers the goings on in town and around the county and at each of the High Schools in town every week. And I’m starting to be more interested in what the county is doing as a result.

    The Daily Democrat website publishes pictures of little kids dressed up on Halloween, pictures from both sides of the Woodland/Pioneer football game, the Christmas parade, etc.

    The Davis Enterprise posts the audio tapes of a juvenile arrest of a local teen for hit and run. That pretty much sums up the Enterprise’s view of community support and involvement.

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