Newspapers strive to be viewed as the defenders of society -- holding government and industry accountable for their actions in instances where the everyman may not have the opportunity to speak for himself. The power wielded by the American press is mighty.
For what seems like eons, select newspapers have been lionized -- mostly by themselves -- as "papers of record." These are the cornerstones of journalism in America, and today include New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wash Post. There may be others, depending on who you ask. (The San Jose Mercury-News has become very prominent of late by the tech set.)
The point is there are newspapers, and then there are newspapers. We have to wonder now -- just 18 months short of my favorite year -- 2011 -- whether the distinction even matters.
An old guard employs talented journalists (their definition), because they are well trained and paid for it. The newer guard -- found in the great blogs and online more accessible publications -- are beloved because they are the most admired writers, and are able to convey thoughts about what's in the news are saying without sounding like a typical reporter.
This is the Daily Show analysis: You don't get your news from Jon Stewart, you get your news in a form that makes sense to you, cutting through any and all pretext. You have to know something about the latest obscure news from earlier that morning in order to get the joke at 11:00 pm.
I think the big newspapers are too concerned with style. There is too much insistence on being "our way."Each time a paper of record says "This reporter was..." instead of "I was," I cringe. In the news about the MTV Movie Awards, they avoided the words dick and fuck. I get it: it's a family newspaper. Then don't write about awards on a crass teen network!
When papers like the NYT start worrying less about being keystones of ancient bridges, with more concern toward being servants of the people who want to know what's up without fuss or muss, then they will be seen as remarkable products once again. Until then, a newspaper is worth a scan in the morning, since my news is being served to me all day long, quick and dirty (sans newsprint), and with a good belly laugh in the late evening.
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