Democracy Can't Exist Without Newspapers?

from the banging-my-head dept

I really want to stop writing stories about clueless newspaper folks making braindead statements about the industry, but it just never stops. The latest is that the former editor of the Scotsman, in Edinburgh (where I’m heading next week), is claiming that democracy can’t exist without newspapers. He’s upset that the Scotsman has gone downhill apparently — and that may be the case, but that has little to do with whether or not democracy can or can’t exist without a newspaper. The mistake, again (and we keep hearing this) is this weird assumption that without newspapers, it means all news reporting goes away. But that’s simply not true.

In fact, we’re seeing new reporting startups pop up pretty much every day. The Columbia Journalism Review has a great feature piece written by a long-time foreign correspondent for a variety of newspapers who has built a brand new reporting service that is providing news both on its own site and to a number of other news sources (including some of the newspapers who used to employ him). The fact that newspapers might go away hardly means that journalism goes away — and it certainly doesn’t mean that watchdog efforts go away.

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Comments on “Democracy Can't Exist Without Newspapers?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

If I don’t get a newspaper, I won’t get the news. Period. I hate watching the TV “news” with weather reports every five minute and ten minutes of sports, and there’s not a single local website that provides the depth of coverage the local newspaper does. And I really, really hate reading for any length of time on a PC, desktop or laptop. I can read the newspaper anywhere, anytime, especially outside on a nice relaxing Sunday morning.

ken says:

truth terrorists

My kids, now in their 20s, were taught in grade school to never cite a newspaper to support a fact. They were taught not to believe anything they read unless they could support it with further research. Needless to say, they don’t subscribe to a newspaper. In general, most of the key articles in newspapers are sensationalized, biased, wrong, full of innuendo, half truths, etc. There is no way I believe anything in the paper relative to politics, science and technology, economics, or health. It seems like journalism has evolved into truth terrorism.

Anonymous Coward says:


Newspapers and TV reporting are skewed to the agenda of those in charge of decisions. Conservative, Liberal, For or Against, it does not matter, the position of the story pushes their agenda.

What worries me is that the future could hold too many sources with too many agendas and people will not know who to believe. I get fake stories emailed to me all the time from friends and family, imagine that happening from 100 “independent” news outlets. The important stories will be lost in all the fake stories.

GK says:


It come down to keeping an eye on those power. And IMO, a critical eye is more important than an unbiased one. Newspapers have been a respected and powerful entity in the past, so when things like Watergate happened the reporters had enough cachet to get people to listen. While the newspaper is undoubtedly losing consumers to the internet and blogs, it is still place where mainly eyeballs, and the eyeballs of people who matter, go first.

Rodney Gagnon (user link) says:

The opposite couldn't be more true

As a man in his 40’s who hasn’t read an actual paper newspaper in a decade (unless one is left in the seat pocket on my next flight), I am more informed than ever due to the expanding democratization of reporting sources including this blog. It seems to me that this editor’s comment is simply out of fear and, sadly, ignorance.

Bill says:


this follows from a newly published book in UK titled Flat Earth News.

it highlights the fact that journalists sit in offices taking PR outputs off newswires and will repurpose the same story in many different styles, languages and ways for different audiences which reinforces audience views and retains readership/viewers. any deviation from the story with comment may open them up to libel suits etc

one of its conclusions is that US people get fed very little news about international stuff that they are largely ignorant about US foreign policy and people’s reaction internationally. This is because most news is repurposed outputs from PR machines.

another conclusion is that the decline in real and investigative journalism (which media will not pay for)is the decline in civil liberties as news is repurposed government PR

Liza says:


I hate to break it to you but the independent’s coverage of Scotland is rotten and certainly nothing to shout about. The problem with the Scotsman is that it is thirled to unionism and refuses to give the SNP Government a fair hearing. That is the reason for it’s fall in sales, however having said that it is still substantially better in terms of it’s Scottish coverage than the Daily Mail, Times or Telegraph which are even worse. The Scotsman group have a new Editor, maybe he can turn things around.



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