Joseph Epstein has a terrific essay in Commentary about the ongoing death of newspapers. As you might expect, it’s filled with conservative disdain for what he sees as a media overcome with liberal bias. But never mind. The writing is literate and elegant, and it closes with this wonderful passage:
The time of transition we are currently going through, with the interest in traditional newspapers beginning to fade and news on the computer still a vast confusion, can be likened to a great city banishing horses from its streets before anyone has yet perfected the automobile.
Nevertheless, if I had to prophesy, my guess would be that newspapers will hobble along, getting ever more desperate and ever more vulgar. More of them will attempt the complicated mental acrobatic of further dumbing down while straining to keep up, relentlessly exerting themselves to sustain the mighty cataract of inessential information that threatens to drown us all. Those of us who grew up with newspapers will continue to read them, with ever less trust and interest, while younger readers, soon enough grown into middle age, will ignore them.
My own preference would be for a few serious newspapers to take the high road: to smarten up instead of dumbing down, to honor the principles of integrity and impartiality in their coverage, and to become institutions that even those who disagreed with them would have to respect for the reasoned cogency of their editorial positions. I imagine such papers directed by editors who could choose for me — as neither the Internet nor I on my own can do — the serious issues, questions, and problems of the day and, with the aid of intelligence born of concern, give each the emphasis it deserves.
In all likelihood a newspaper taking this route would go under; but at least it would do so in a cloud of glory, guns blazing. And at least its loss would be a genuine subtraction. About our newspapers as they now stand, little more can be said in their favor than that they do not require batteries to operate, you can swat flies with them, and they can still be used to wrap fish.
Via Arts & Letters Daily.