Saturday, September 3, 2011

In defense of newspapers

Newspapers have been having a rough time recently.

In the city where I live, Tucson, with a metropolitan population of about one million, the evening paper died a few years ago and the morning daily has been shedding staff in an attempt to hang on. The collective consciousness of our country seems to be turning against print newspapers in favor of faster, more efficient electronic media like blogs, e-newspapers, and (gulp) Twitter.

One cluster of stories on an inside page of today's Arizona Daily Star shows why that would be a terrible mistake. The collection of headlines reads:

  • Voters in Quartzsite get rid of their mayor;
  • Toy poodle saves sleeping man's life; and
  • Man bites snake.
That last one is the kicker, a variation on the old saw "if a dog bites a man, it isn't news; but if a man bites a dog, it is." Just think how much more news value there is, if a man bites a snake.

The lead on the snake story explains: "A snake bite in a north Sacramento neighborhood left the victim seriously hurt, but the injured party isn't whom you'd expect." A tussle between a man and a 3-foot-long python left the python in need of emergency surgery, and the man charged with unlawfully mutilating a reptile, the story went on to explain.

I'm telling you, you can't make this stuff up. And I don't know where you're going to find stories like this -- and even stories of greater consequence, like investigations into political and financial misdeeds -- without a newspaper and its staff of skilled reporters to track them down.

I like blogs like witsendmagazine a lot, but I'm going to keep my newspaper subscription too. Otherwise the blogs would be a lot poorer, and so would I.

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