The Newspaper Is How You Learned to Be a Good American

Rebuilding the Media: Newspapers Decline
By Roger Baker

Here’s the latest stuff on that, but the trend is stale news that we’ve heard about in recent years.

But there are implications. The newspaper is how you learned to be a good American, along with TV and Time or Newsweek.

The local newspaper pretends to tell the truth. The truth as seen by responsible leading citizens who tell you when it’s OK, for instance, for respectable citizens to start opposing Bush and his policies.

Newspaper publishers do not sell newspapers. What they really do is to sell mostly middle class reader’s eyes to their advertisers.

But if the eyes the newspapers sell should jump over to the internet, as younger eyes are doing, the newspapers are in big trouble because they create a high energy waste penalty through physical production, delivery, and recycling problems.

It’s apparent that with the same teams of reporters, the publishers could generate a really great product at lower cost if only they could retain their same readers over the internet and somehow get the same subscription money. But not even the big papers like the NYT have been able to do that very well. The core paper readers are older and don’t have computers, or like to hold papers out of habit, etc.

I think this gradual decline in newspapers means less centralized and effective local control over the thinking of average folks in favor of whichever internet media is most compelling (plus cable TV?).

In the age of the internet, consumer boycotts will perhaps have to fill the same organized role that strikes once did. Instead of workers withholding labor, there is no reason that consumers cannot or should not organize to withhold collective buying power. Can something approximating working class solidarity among consumers be organized via the internet?

The major missing element is arguably an angry population willing to be guided through a loss of confidence in other democratic channels, engendered by the regiments of lobbyists that buy our Congress. But consumers are already in a position to be influenced and to shift their buying on a mass scale; the huge recalls of Chinese toys with lead paint demonstrates that.

Those in charge may try to pass laws to make it illegal to spread rumors destructive to existing markets over the internet. I think Walmart has suffered image problems, largely due to the internet.

The internet media, anarchistic by nature, is only starting to evolve a social coherence that can match its potential. The internet wants to be a form of TV, instead of a print media, which would probably mean a dumbing down. As Marshall McCluen once told us, “the media is the message.”

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