Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 30, 2007 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan 5768

Will newspapers survive?

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I began working for newspapers 20 years ago this week, when the Boston Herald hired me as its chief editorial writer, a job I enjoyed for six years before moving to The Boston Globe as a columnist in 1994. A career in journalism was not something I had ever envisioned: When I was in second grade I announced that I was going to be a judge when I grew up. In time I earned a law degree, passed the bar exam, and joined a large law firm — only to discover that lawyering wasn't my cup of tea, after all. But even though I never became a judge, I have had the good fortune of being paid to render opinions, and the even better fortune of doing so in the pages of a newspaper.


One of the first things I learned in this business was how eager some people are to express their disdain for it. When I was at the Herald, people regularly told me that it was a paper they refused to read; in the years since, plenty of others have made sure to tell me the same thing about the Globe. As I write these words, the newest e-mail in my inbox announces irately: "I won't use the NY Times to wrap fish in any more (stinks up the fish)."


Well, sneering at the daily fishwrap is a venerable American tradition. The first newspaper published in the colonies — Publick Occurrences — appeared in Boston on Sept. 25, 1690, and was promptly suppressed by the authorities, who denounced its "sundry doubtful and uncertain reports." More than a century later, Thomas Jefferson declared that "the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors."


Today's legions of press critics say nothing that hasn't been said before — including by members of the press. (In 1919, H. L. Mencken described "the average American newspaper, even of the so-called better sort" as "ignorant . . . unfair and tyrannical . . . devious, hypocritical, disingenuous, deceitful, pharisaical, pecksniffian, fraudulent, slippery, unscrupulous, perfidious, lewd, and dishonest.") Newspapers have always drawn fire, often deservedly. But they have also always drawn readers. Now, increasingly, they don't.


Like most Americans over 40, I grew up in a home in which a newspaper was read every day. When my brother and sister shared a paper route in the 1970s, they delivered to virtually every house in the neighborhood. That is no longer the norm. The percentage of Americans who read a paper every day has fallen from around 70 percent in 1972 to 35 percent today. Among younger adults — those under 30 — newspaper-reading has become almost an eccentricity: Just 16 percent read a paper daily. Industrywide, newspaper circulation has been dropping for 20 years. What's worse, the rate of decline seems to be speeding up.


Nobody thinks this is just a temporary setback. The disappearance of traditional newspapers is increasingly regarded as inevitable, if not already a fait accompli. "Who Killed the Newspaper?" asked The Economist in a cover story last year. Note the past tense.


The conventional answer, of course, is that the Internet is the culprit. Readers by the millions have migrated to the Web, where news and information are typically supplied for free. In their wake, newspaper subscriptions have evaporated, advertisers have decamped, and print revenues have plummeted.


But is the rise of the Internet really the cause of the exodus from newspapers? When I signed on 20 years ago, the slide in readership was already underway. Daily circulation was already falling. The absence of a newspaper habit among younger readers was already prompting concern. Today the crisis may be more acute, but the symptoms appeared before the World Wide Web did.


So if the Internet isn't at the root of newspapers' woes, what is? I nominate not the computer screen, but the TV screen.


Newspapers have been undone by the rise of television, which emphasizes stimulation over substance and fast-paced imagery over focused thought. A generation raised on TV mindlessness is a generation less equipped to read a newspaper — and consequently less interested in doing so. It has always struck me as crazy that newspapers devote so much ink to television, tempting readers to put down the paper and turn on the tube, from which so many of them don't return.


Then again, who knows? "I have been in the newspaper business since 1964," the celebrated political columnist Molly Ivins said at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government last fall, shortly before her death in January, "and during that entire time I have been told it's a dying industry."


Is it possible that, against all odds and expectations, the reports of the death of American newspapers will turn out to have been greatly exaggerated? Ask me again in 20 years.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2006, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles