One of the great American pursuits in my lifetime has been to trash the local paper. It is a healthy, cathartic exercise -- and, at times, practiced in this column.
But at some point in recent years -- and publishers' decisions to post material online at no charge no doubt contributed -- this very American pastime devolved from spirited criticism to foolhardy prickliness. News consumers somehow moved from thinking their paper let them down to thinking that their paper was not worthy of them.
Despite all the solid stories, and all the reliable information, and all the articles that tell you something you did not know and all the opinion pieces that made you stop and think, a growing number of people have decided that it is more important for their news to be pure than it is for the public to be informed.
And I hear this from people who say they care about news. They look to the site-rich Internet for salvation, unaware that the decline of newspapers means that those shiny new websites are linking to fewer real news stories. What looks like more choice isn't. It's more doors leading to fewer rooms.
When a newspaper dies, you don't get a comprehensive periodical to fill the void. You get an informational vacant lot into which passersby can throw their junk.