Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dear Arlene Krebs -- should you cancel your subscription to the Herald?

A recent series of reductions in our paper are making my esteemed colleague Arlene Krebs reconsider her long time subscription to The Herald. In her letter to the editor, Arlene writes that: "As a longtime Herald subscriber and communications professor, I find myself torn between supporting my local newspaper — "A good newspaper is a nation speaking to itself" (Walter Lippmann, 1922) — and finding that my local paper has little for me to hold onto."

As a journalist, writer, and Herald employee, I read these letters and have a hard time keeping my composure. Not only do I have to say goodbye to those elements that make our newspaper a source of community cohesion -- we bid farewell to Tom Karwin, to Barbara Rose Shuler, and to employees faceless to the community that nonetheless made our lives more bearable in the newsroom: Mike Hale, Ryan Panlilio, Daniel Lopez. As a Herald employee, as a media worker, I have to read these letters that break my heart, that make me wonder.

These are extraordinary times, the digital world is transforming our lives in radical ways, and newspapers are just one tiny sample of these changes. But for all the changes, me and other reporters at the Herald (and editors, copy editors, designers) are trying the best to keep our chin up so we can provide a product that's not only ink and paper: we spend long hours in meetings, pour over documents, sit through countless hours of public testimony, so we can shed some light in our rapidly changing world. So we can continue to have some semblance of community. But it's not enough, I know. Our readers had gotten used to a lot more, and now they're resenting these changes.

Unfortunately, if our newspapers continue with their race to the bottom, more readers will abandon us, fewer good reporters will want to continue doing what we do. And more readers will desert us. Talk about Catch 22.

Arlene, I don't know if you're going to give up your subscription to the Herald, but this I know: it's "journalism" not "newspapers" that's the basis of democracy. Newspapers are suffering, but journalism will survive. The Internet, web-based publications are as good for holding people accountable as newspapers traditionally have. How will journalism be sustained in the digital world, which shape it will take, remains to be seen. But it will be there, I now that. We just have to keep the faith.

And get used to our morning coffee with a laptop open, instead of a newspaper.

No comments:

Post a Comment