Two items that point up the indispensable role of newspapers caught my attention yesterday.
The EPpy Awards, an international competition for media-related websites, announced its nominations for newspapers with the best Internet presentations.
And the annual Pulitzer Prizes were announced in New York in journalism, letters, drama and music.
Despite the fact so many people seem to get all their news from the Internet, the awards remind me that we still must rely on newspapers for incisive, in-depth coverage and investigating reporting.
For example, The Toronto Globe and Mail is a finalist in the EPpy Awards for the best newspaper website. The paper’s also been nominated for major feature articles that explored mental health issues and the question of negotiating with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
We’re lucky to have such fine coverage available on our computer screens, but remember it wouldn’t be there without the money advertisers and subscribers invest in the printed version every day.
The New York Times got five Pulitzer Prizes. One was for its investigative reporting that led to the breaking of the call girl scandal that cost New York Governor Elliot Spitzer his job.
I wonder if the people who disdain the idea of reading newspapers and depend instead on the web for their news, ever stop to think about the source of what they’re reading.
Ninety percent of the time, it’s been lifted from newspapers — either by the papers themselves who have posted their articles, or the so-called “aggregators” who lift stories from all the newspaper web sites.
If you’ve got the Drudge Report or (in Canada) Bourque Newswatch among your favorites, you know that they originate nothing themselves. Other sites, like Tina Brown’s Daily Beast or the liberal-minded Huffington Post, put up a certain amount of original material. But most of what they publish they “borrow” from their print sisters. The Beast even runs a page called “Cheat Sheet” where they highlight the best of what they’ve raided.
True, there are a few online magazines publishing entirely original material. The oldest and best known, Salon, offers a wide-ranging and eclectic assortment of think pieces. Canada’s Tyee, a B.C.-oriented site, accurately describes itself as “A Feisty One Online.”
The point here is that none of these online news outfits have the resources to invest in the kind of meaningful journalism that we desperately need if we’re to get a better handle on the criticial issues of the day.
Not that the newspapers always do that great a job. The New York Times famously sat on knowledge that the U.S. was about to invade Cuba. We had the Bay of Pigs fiasco as the result.
During the “War on Terror” (a term now officially banished), the U.S. media acted largely as a silent stooge for the Bush gang. But now that Americans are getting their perspective back, we’re seeing some tough questions being asked by the newspapers on issues such as CIA torture tactics.
Then there’s TV – still the main source of news for most people. Did you know that all the words spoken on a typical evening newscast would fill no more than a couple of columns on the front page of the average paper?
So when we see the newspaper industry in crisis, it’s a troubling omen. The New York Times is said to be down to its last $34 million in cash – barely enough to carry the paper for another few months.
The greatest damage from the current recession could turn out to be the destruction of our most important media voices. When the papers go, so will the web news sites. They’ll have nowhere to scalp their news from.
So if you’re not getting a paper now, please subscribe today. And if you’re already a “faithful reader”, please keep it up.