Sunday, December 07, 2008

I am the destroyer of newspapers

Leslie Graves, author of the blog State Sunshine and Open Records, ventured onto the pages of the deadtree Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to comment on the decline of newspapers.

I switched to exclusively online news consumption, because it meets two compelling social needs: a desire for community and a desire to know and understand others.

The first reason I press "start" to follow the news is because most news hurts. Consuming it with others cushions the blow. A few years back, the book "Bowling Alone" said Americans were retreating into solitary pursuits. The explosion of news consumption online with social interaction features suggests I'm not alone in valuing perspective and fellow-feeling from others to help wash down the events of the day. We're not likely to turn into a nation of solitary news imbibers, now that we have the ability to so easily share.

The second reason is my love of "small news." In my hometown, this is the constant flow of information about what's happening with work, school, what they were saying at the coffee shop about the mayor, the grandkids, what they were saying at the Laundromat about why the road project was delayed, the homecoming parade and so on.

As this small news is purveyed, you learn that some purveyors are funny, some are reliable and some are both, although sadly not that many. The online world of small news is just like this, except turbocharged on steroids for whatever in the world intrigues you.

I think the latter is especially important in the long term. When I started blogging, I discovered there was plenty of material to write about locally (which is pretty funny considering my interest has always been foreign policy). I don't see what I do as replacing the newspaper as much as adding to the local coverage.

Still, if most bloggers are anything like me, we blog when we feel like it and then we go on vacation, try to give up the habit or our computer crashes. If the "Army of Davids," as Instapundit Glenn Reynolds describes the blogosphere, were all like me, Goliath often would fail to be slain.

I want professional journalism to prosper. I want its honorable goals and traditions to grow richer and become more widespread. I think our world will be better if this happens and much worse if this tradition declines.

But for now, I'm not willing to give up the Wigderson Library & Pub or folkbum to slow the decline.

Well, maybe folkbum.