11/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Newspapers for a New Age

New York is a city which moves at a dizzying speed, but the way information moves today can make even the tech-savviest New Yorker's head spin. Today's Kindle-clutching, iPhone toting subway rider who braves the rush hour commute spends every waking hour in a world of nonstop news and information which none of us could have ever imagined just a few years ago.

The changes in how we all access and consume information have done more than just change the landscape of my city, it's also changed the news industry as a whole -- taking a brutal toll on the print news media, whose importance in providing original reporting and investigating issues of public concern is timeless. It is no secret that the newspaper industry has fallen on hard times which have only been exacerbated by the painful economic woes our country is still working its way out of. Digital media, bloggers, news aggregators, and citizen journalists all on the internet have forever altered the speed at which news and ideas are disseminated. And while there are many out there chronicling what ails our country's newspapers, community dailies continue to shut down their presses, and not nearly enough is being done to find ways to preserve these institutions.

This morning, I am holding a hearing of the Joint Economic Committee to examine the treacherous economic landscape newspapers face. The role they play in our democracy -- today and throughout our nation's history -- is too important to allow them to recede further. I expect testimony to cover many different issues, including many of the ideas for the future of newspapers which have already been discussed - and hopefully several new ideas as well. This hearing comes on the heels of my submission of H.R. 3602, a bill which will enable local newspapers to take advantage of non-profit status as a way to preserve their place in communities nationwide. Since the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the federal government has acknowledged that the press is an institution which is afforded special protections by name. In this spirit, I think that the government can help foster solutions for this industry in ways which protect the independence of newspapers and enables their objective reporting to thrive in a new economic and media climate.

It may seem ironic to defend newspapers in this space. But in so many ways the change brought about by the digital media amplifies what is written in newspapers. The internet and mobile devices extend news and information in a way that has open dialogues to more and more aspects of our life. The internet has allowed anyone, regardless of background or world view, to express themselves, connect with others, and access an entire world of electronic information. But the ability for dedicated staffs with greater resources to investigate and report on issues large and small provides a critical check on institutions that otherwise lack a critical body of oversight focused solely on the public interest.