Posted by: Karina of the Fallen Stars | August 1, 2009

Decline of Newspapers – Bad For Democracy?

In class we discussed how cutbacks and layoffs in the newspaper industry lead to dwindling numbers of White House and state house correspondents, as well as fewer international reporters. The assumption that this could be detrimental to democracy rises from concerns that fewer reporters would mean more corruption would go unreported as the newspaper industry’s watchdog role takes a downward turn, as Starr stated in Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers, “the lower the news circulation, the greater the corruption”. Many papers that have previously reported prominent political scandals (i.e. WaPo’s Watergate piece) are not immune to the “newspaper recession”, for which the rise of internet news is getting blamed for.

But is the internet media bad for democracy? Sure, it has its drawbacks: questionable sources, not as much reporting, etc. But isn’t democracy all about the power of choice? The world wide web offers an almost infinite number of choices for news from professional news sources such as BBC or CNN to your amateur everyday blogger. To write for a newspaper, one requires the proper credentials and fieldwork experience. However, to blog,  all one requires is an internet connection. This is not to say that being a novice is useless, after all bloggers were the ones to uncover Dan Rather’s Bush memos scandal.  The internet gives everyone an equal chance to choice their opinions, unlike the editorial section of a newspaper that only caters to a selected few. Surely, with so many choices and vocal outlets the internet could not be so disastrous to democracy. I believe that individuals only worry because from a traditional standpoint, newspapers have always been the epitome of democracy. Now that the industry is declining, more fears arise that the newer media models cannot compare and uphold the democratic ideals that papers have until this point.

I believe that there are many benefits involved with the transition to online newspapers. Publishing costs are kept low and environmental impact is not as prominent. News is delivered quicker, right at the viewer’s fingertips and can be accessed any time of the day. I agree with Clay Shirky in that journalism does not equal newspapers, rather it was the potential to grow with technology and adapt to new standards.

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