Citizen journalism, blogging and news sites both left and right are flourishing online. In fact, the online news audience is soaring, according to a report in Editor & Publisher. This growth online is depressing to longtime print journalists. Indeed, according a March 2008 article in The New Yorker, Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, in a speech said, "At places where editors and publishers gather, the mood is funeral. Editors ask one another 'How are you?' in that sober tone one employs with friends who have just gone through rehab or a messy divorce."
The real crisis is in trust. Americans don't trust the newspapers because the premise that they are unbiased has been so totally discredited by recent scandals and blatant censorship. A study from Sacred Heart University found that fewer than 20 percent of Americans said they could believe "all or most" media reporting, a figure that has fallen from more than 27 percent just five years ago.
In the article titled "The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper," published online by Slate, Jack Shafer argues that the seeds of the great newspaper decline were planted more than 80 years ago. At that time, "radio challenged the newspapers' status as the only mass news, entertainment, and advertising medium." He surmises that the emergence of each new media technology -- the car radio, television, the portable radio, FM, cable, the VCR, the Internet, the cell phone, satellite radio and TV, the podcast, et.al- "has delivered another kick to newspapers."
But we believe that part of the success of these alternative mediums of communication is that they have not been dominated by the political left. AM radio has had a renaissance since the late 1980s precisely because it allowed for more diversity of voices, and conservatives were able to build an audience. Cable news is dominated by Fox News because they allow right-of-center voices on the air together with the usual liberal voices to create a more vigorous discussion.
If newspapers really want to regain relevance, they will print news that is not so easily dismissed as liberal. Likewise, they should cover a wider variety of stories that interest all audiences including conservatives. Shareholders of large public media companies should demand it. Here lies the path to relevance and healthy financial renewal.