“Every time a newspaper dies, even a bad one, the country moves a little closer to authoritarianism,” said the author and former journalist Richard Kluger once.
Today is World Press Freedom Day and we take this opportunity to highlight how crucial the press is, especially in our current situation where it has become even more acute today when confusing information is bombarded on us every second. Society is torn with information that cannot be consistently trusted. So, journalists become even more critical in their role.
More specifically, let’s talk about newspapers, an industry that is in such dire straits that a depressing new term, “news desert,” has been coined. The landscape is drying up fast, accelerated by the flourishing of a feeding frenzy of clickbait with headlines designed to evoke emotional responses per our preconceived notions. Factions outweigh facts. We’ve gone from the news to ‘our’ news. Everybody has a megaphone, and nobody has a clue.
Traditional newspapers have had to evolve, and for the better, with online presence increasing. But digital growth for newspapers levels off very fast. And once digital, they enter a news market where making the distinction between fact and fiction becomes very hard.
However, despite the predicament that newspapers find themselves in, they are still consequential. Their ability to dive deep into issues without the time constraints of broadcast media, and to do it in a nuanced manner unlike most stuff online, makes them unique.
The media landscape will inevitably continue to evolve but these transformations should go hand in hand with checks on trends that obfuscate the truth. The fracturing of the truth, whether it be on vaccines or political positions, has made it impossible to agree upon problems, let alone solve them.
Of course biases exist, either politically or philosophically. But print media, more than any other form, has been held more accountable on their veracity in publishing ethically. There is also more recourse to hold print media accountable, especially by their local readers. Their tangible intimacy with the local population gives the latter the ability to make newspapers know when they are going wrong. And that is crucial.
The time perhaps is now then to rediscover newspapers, before it’s too late to revive both the publishing industry and societal sanity. A rebound in the former’s fortunes can only help improve the latter’s collective intelligence, thoughtfulness and civility.
Newspapers are worth defending and also worth more than what we pay for them.
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