I had a conversation the other day with a group of die-hard newspaper subscription holders. They were around my parents’ ages, but they were also computer savvy. But they were concerned at how the paper was shrinking, and about different newsgroups going out of business. One told me her friend’s daughter – a journalism major – was happy just to get an interview at Wells Fargo several states away.
My concern is not in the amount of information out there, but the truth of the information. While it’s fine and sometimes funny to hear a Chris Matthews paranoid rant or a Lou Dobbs spin, I want to know the facts first. And while it’s great to witness a race to a scene with cameras to get the scoop, it’s still missing an element that only a newspaper story can give: that researched background. There’s nothing new under the sun, so when someone holds up a Holocaust museum, I don’t just want to see the story unfold, I want to know everything about the story. That well-researched newspaper article can give me not just an eyewitness account, but a factual background (set the scene, tell me why), different viewpoints, and summarized points for me to digest. One article, with all the reference, research, and facts I need helps me make my OWN opinion. Then, I can form my own commentary without a Chris or Lou or Rachel in my ear first.
What happens when we gossip about the news? What happens when we can’t go a step further and discuss, debate and wrestle with the abstract life lessons underneath the facts, instead just adding on to what we think we know from hourly internet updates? What happens if the art of true journalism dies?