Jack Shafer does a great job in his latest Slate post pointing newspapers in the right direction. He captures a sentiment I know I’ve had for some time now, so I thought it was worth linking to. I’ll give you the gist. Because of the speed and immediacy of the Internet, the front page of our daily papers have, for a while now, had a stale feeling, presenting little that we haven’t already seen in real time. Like Shafer, I’m also inclined to flip to the inside pages, which, as he writes, “tend to have a magazine feel to them because of their greater independence from breaking news.” They provide what the Internet cannot — zeroing in on important, longer stories that are more than mere digestions of what happened yesterday. For newspapers to survive in the Internet age, they need to free themselves of the need to deliver that hard news, or as much of it as they do, and focus instead on the kind of writing and reporting that is still their primary added value.
Shafer quotes from a study by William Powers who gets it just right, as far as I’m concerned: “the public exodus from newspapers is not a rejection of paper, but an objection to using it for hard news and other utilitarian, quick-read content that gains little or nothing from arriving in that format.” A similar point was made in the pages of our magazine recently by Mitchell Stephens in his article, “Beyond the News.”
As long as newspapers spend time, energy, and resources on what they do best — rather than trying to duplicate what the Internet does better - they will continue to be as integral to society as they’ve always been.