Paul Greenberg

A little historical perspective in these matters might help. Jack Shafer provided some of it in an (online) edition of Slate the other day when he reviewed the Great Newspaper Crackup of 1918, which saw the Boston Journal, Cleveland Leader, New York Press and Boston Traveler publish their last editions.

In response, Mr. Shafer notes, the blueblood critic Oswald Garrison Villard wrote an obituary for daily journalism in America in the pages of the venerable Atlantic Monthly.

Mr. Villard's dismal words "could have been lifted from recent eulogies for the shuttered Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Rocky Mountain News." For he expressed his fears not only for the future of newspapers, but for the democracy that depended on their vitality and variety. He could not have known that the best was yet to be.

We tend to forget that newspapers, like ourselves, are mortal. They come, they go, and they are succeeded by others. But every time a much-loved one dies -- or even a well-despised one -- another rises to take its place. Maybe not immediately or in the same form, but eventually and in some fashion. Where the demand is, the supply will materialize.

The technology of daily journalism may change, but not the essence of the project. Much as the Polaroid was succeeded by digital photography. Whatever the current technology, we still take family pictures. Cell phones now replace landlines, but the purpose is the same: to make contact, stay in touch, keep up.

Note that in Seattle the old Post-Intelligencer is still around, only online. Actually, there were two P-Is online last time I checked, since reporters and columnists who didn't make the official one have organized a second, freelance Web site. How long before free weeklies, community bulletins and counter-cultural broadsides begin popping up? Like grass after a forest fire.

Doesn't anybody read Schumpeter any more on capitalism as "The Process of Creative Destruction"? Innovations are its most powerful force, like cataclysms in geology. The world we know changes; it doesn't end.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.