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The Saddest Good-bye

Final Edition by Matthew Roberts

From "Final Edition" by Matthew Roberts

For all those who are wondering if society will be able to function after the death of newspapers, see the extraordinarily moving video Final Edition on the closing of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News after nearly 150 years of existence. (Thanks to Donna DeCesare for pointing it out.) The termination of the newspaper, given community needs and the extraordinary group of professionals who made the newspaper run, makes little sense in a country as affluent and confused as this one. Is termination the only solution? To repeat the obvious, in a democracy people need to know what is going on; there needs to be a sense of community beyond one’s immediate neighborhood; there must be those watching government officials up close to make sure that they are doing the right thing. How can an up-against-the-wall desperate national government give out hundreds of billions of dollars to stimulate the national economy while fewer and fewer newspapers are left to hold the government accountable, even to point out to the rest of us where that money is going? Whose word will we take that the money is having any effect?

The national coverage of comedian Jon Stewart as the next Walter Cronkite is a distraction that borders on the obscene. Is Comedy Central going to cover Denver’s education system? Its quality of healthcare? Its immigrants? While Denver still has the Post, other cities are barely holding on to a single newspaper. Web-only publications that people could print out or read on a screen could provide many of the most essential functions of a newspaper, but so far that economic model is all too shaky.

What is unbelievable is the sense of inevitability with which we are watching one of our essential safety nets disappear. In a so-called information society knowing what is going on seems hardly to be a priority.

One Comment

  1. Giovanni DB wrote:

    A radio show here in France (”et pourtant elle tourne”, 25 march 2009 of radio France) is talking now about the Rocky Mountain and is saying that they’ll do a version online for 60$ a year. If 50.000 people get the subscription it will survive!

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

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