Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why newspapers matter and a pop quiz

If you have a chance, please read this excerpt on why we need newspapers. At a time when more people than ever turn to newspapers for information, the industry's economic model is crumbling, and its overall health is declining. In a speech before the Joint Economic Committee, the Director for the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, Tom Rosenstiel, noted:

Last year, the traffic to the top 50 news websites grew by 27%. But the price of an online ad fell by 48%.

The consequence is that the amount of our civic life that occurs in the sunlight of observation by journalists is shrinking. The number of city councils and zoning commissions, utility boards and state houses, governor's mansions and world capitals being covered on a regular basis, even by a lone journalist, is diminishing. One out of every five people working in newspaper newsrooms in 2000 was gone at the beginning of 2009, and the number is doubtless higher now. My old newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, has half the reporters it did a decade ago.

In a nutshell, while more people are reading the news, fewer people are reporting it. In a democracy, someone needs to ferret out the truth, if only for the populace to have an informed opinion.

If you think we have an informed populace, take this quiz and compare your answers with the nation at large and let me know how you feel about the depth of our collective knowledge.

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