One of my compadres on Alexandria noted that most of the blogging he sees is simply aggregation or  commentary on material recycled from newspaper or magazine articles and television news shows. This was my response:

There is a good reason why so much of the writing on the web is mere rehashing of print or TV reports. How many people are going to go out and investigate governmental corruption, expose injustices, or uncover violations of civil liberties, if no one is paying them a living wage to do it?

It’s a pretty dang expensive proposition to do the kind of newspapering that uncovers a Watergate scandal, or any other kind of major investigative piece that results in Pulitzer-caliber reporting. Or even the kind of metro or features reporting that may go unsung, and won’t necessarily win big prizes, but that nevertheless changes people’s lives for the better.

In addition, by eliminating so many of the niches in local reporting, newspapers will inevitably lose what once made them invaluable to a wide range of readers, such as:

Those who subscribed primarily for reliable coverage of local food/dining news, or home/garden/design.

Those who wanted expert coverage of religion or science.

Those who enjoyed in-depth, narrative feature writing.

Those who valued wide-ranging criticism of the arts and entertainment fields.

All those readers will rightfully consider themselves underserved when such locally reported elements drop away, one by one, to be replaced mostly with wire-service copy — and not even much of that.

I cannot tell you how many people over the past three weeks have told me: “I just don’t know how much longer we can keep subscribing. They keep taking away everything I like to read.” And this problem is not unique to Dallas. I can guarantee you that from coast to coast, this discontent is rife among the readership at every single metropolitan newspaper in America, as budgets and staff are slashed to cut operating costs.

U.S. newspapers are under siege, desperately struggling to survive in a floundering economy, amid the demands of a new technological world with which we are as yet less than conversant. I cannot pretend to know where the industry’s ultimate solutions, if any, may exist.

All I know is that the answers cannot possibly lie in failing to give the readers what they actually want to read and are willing to pay for.

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By the way, anyone who has not already done so needs to read David Carr’s excellent New York Times piece on why it’s a very bad idea for newspapers to jettison their veteran journalists. His closing words should  cause every newspaper executive in the nation to sleep uneasily:

Newspapers confront tall, menacing seas in the coming year, but it is a sure bet that the ones that dump the ablest hands on deck will be among the first to sink below the waves.