Thursday, November 27, 2008

...And on the Subject of The Herald...

The theme of the week seems to be the need to save the local dalies from extinction, so I thought that as the new kid on the block I would chime in on the matter. Contrary to what the general stance of this blog is, I do still think that there is a vital need for our local newspapers to survive.

Even with the impact that blogs have had around the nation in the last two years, they have far from arrived as the new paradigm of media. I will willingly admit to that. The traditional mainstream media is still the gold standard of What Is News to the majority of Americans, including a fellow named Joe who either has an affinity for drinking six beers at once or has very solid abs - Mrs. Palin never did quite make that clear. Despite its many, many, many, many, many, many, many faults, the MSM still carries its advantages that blogs have yet to overcome.

The MSM is accessible. It is accessible from a logistical standpoint: TV broadcast is free. Newspapers are everywhere. The Herald is only 50 cents. Even the poorest among us can easily turn to the MSM to find out what's going on in our community and in our world. That the out-of-work machinist sitting at a lunch counter sipping Folger's and circling want-ads has been replaced by the out-of-work sales rep sipping Starbucks and cruising Craigslist is not a reflection on the irrelevance of printed media, but of the very fact that internet-based media is still accessible mainly by a more affluent, better educated, more technologically adept class, and that that class is the one in highest demand by advertisers and employers. I am not suggesting we blame the internet for this shift, and I am not suggesting the MSM hasn't dug its own hole over the years with lousy journalistic standards and sensationalism. But the extinction of print media itself threatens to make this two-tiered culture of information permanent and more severe. I worry what would happen in our community if only those of us with internet access knew what was going on.

The MSM is accessible in another way: It is easy to understand. No, I am not a fan of dumbed-down media. But the fact is, most relevant blogs are in-depth, specialized treatment of breaking news within a certain domain. Daily Kos is a wonderful and informative source of information for those with a keen mind for Democratic politics. It is confusing as hell for those who don't know who the Vice President is (don't laugh, there are tons of Americans who don't know, and that's not a laughing matter), and its downright useless if you're trying to find out if the Patriots beat the Dolphins or what time the car show starts.

Blogs have their role: They feed the MSM with stories and information they would never have found otherwise. They call out and correct the MSM when it reports wrong information. They look deeper into stories that the MSM would have otherwise dropped and let die. They organize the masses and re-frame the debate that the Conservative-dominated MSM lazily casts in favor of those who would loot America for every dime it has in the name of God, Country, and God & Jesus. But at the end of the day, it is the MSM that disseminates the work of our best and brightest bloggers to the masses. We can't change minds and win hearts without it.

It is not easy to find a way to save these institutions. They are expensive to maintain, in terms of personnel, equipment, and raw materials. But the loss of The Herald would be far worse than any expense we would incur trying to modernize it.

So save The Herald. And keep dogging it until it gets the story right.

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