Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Stanton: Trust us, we’ll survive

Newspapers provide the antidote to the lawless, fact-free cyberworld

Workers dismantle  the sign at Denver's Rocky Mountain News. one of many victims of the quake rocking the newspaper industry.

Workers dismantle the sign at Denver's Rocky Mountain News. one of many victims of the quake rocking the newspaper industry.

Newspapers are being felled across the land – victims of overextended media chains, corporate greedheads, a searing recession and a singular lack of foresight and imagination amid the dawn of the Internet, craigslist, blogs and Twitter (which I believe is an incurable genetic condition).

Surviving dailies are ordering layoffs, pay cuts and unpaid furloughs for staff members, while hunkering down to continue business as usual.

(They’re even slicing into the salaries of newspapers’ top dogs – who, a la AIG, wisely now rely more heavily on bonuses.)

Clearly, change must come. But I’ll believe the newspaper industry is dead when they drive a spike through the heart of that last little Kingman Daily Miner or Summit Daily News.

Until then, reports of our profession’s death will continue to be widely exaggerated.

Tech-happy gurus Clay Shirky and Dave Winer already are dancing on a nonexistent grave, giddy that hordes of Internetters will take our place.

Shirky’s new book title – “Here Comes Everyone!” – underscores his glee.

And yes, it is wonderful when common folk band together to foment change, whether via the Internet or any other means.

It’s what Americans have been doing in this democratic society all along.

Those mini-revolutions usually relied on information circulated by newspapers. They still do, except now it’s newspaper information that’s been recycled onto the Internet.

Shirky doesn’t express much concern about the flip side of the fiber optic, but the Internet is where the miasma of terrorism, from radical Muslims to American Nazis, can coagulate, too.

And it’s the favorite playground of petty thugs without a clue. Their uncensored slander and libel via online comments would have prompted lawsuits in an earlier age. But now they’re anonymous, and they can do anything – no matter how vicious, how stupid, how wrong.

That’s the Internet – a cacophony of idiocy and brilliance where everyone can join in, whether helpful or harmful.

Winer insists, “The sources will fill in where we used to need journalists,” with judges, jurors, witnesses and others telling you the outcome of court cases, for example.

But Internet anarchy can’t fill the void newspapers would leave. Someone still must do the often mind-numbing reporting, and someone must separate the wheat from the chaff.

Cyberspace drenches you in misinformation, some sophisticated and subtle, some not.

Mark Morford nails it on sfgate.com: “Whom do you trust? How do you know? How the hell do you actually find anything resembling balance and context and through-line, when no one has an editor and anyone can say anything and the concept of ‘journalistic professionalism’ is nowhere to be found, because no one wants to pay for it?”

Indeed. The newspaper you’re reading right now has a gun to its head, but it’s filled with information that’s been gathered and vetted by professionals.

No one welcomes its death, not even its harshest critics.

Because just as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News helped to keep the Seattle Times and The Denver Post on their toes, so has the Citizen provided a counterpoint to the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Weekly.

The venerable newspaper war is an honorable battle fought by professionals who follow a strict code of conduct.

The Internet sans newspapers would be a soulless, lawless place that few if any could navigate.

So yes. Some terrific newspapers are biting the dust in this recession, and our companies are being forced to reorganize and even reinvent themselves.

But newspapers dead? Not on my life.

Reach Billie Stanton at billiestanton@gmail.com.



Views of newspapers’ fate via – where else? – the Internet

www.newspaperproject.org brings you:

• “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” by Clay Shirky

• “Behind the Newspaper Negativists” by Randy Siegel

• “Die, newspaper, die? The geek gurus all weigh in on the end of dead-tree media. Are they wrong?” by Mark Morford

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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