The Newspaper Slump: Blaming the Bloggers

If you're wondering who's to blame for the slump in newspaper revenue over the past few years, Kathleen Parker has what she believes to be the answer: the "drive-by punditry":

Drive-by pundits, to spin off of Rush Limbaugh's "drive-by media," are non-journalists who have been demonizing the media for the past 20 years or so and who blame the current news crisis on bias.

There is surely room for media criticism, and a few bad actors in recent years have badly frayed public trust. And, yes, some newspapers are more liberal than their readership and do a lousy job of concealing it.

But the greater truth is that newspaper reporters, editors, and institutions are responsible for the boots-on-the-ground grub work that produces the news stories and performs the government watchdog role so crucial to a democratic republic.

Unfortunately, the chorus of media bashing from certain quarters has succeeded in convincing many Americans that they don't need newspapers. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press recently found that fewer than half of Americans -- 43 percent -- say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community "a lot." Only 33 percent say they would miss the local paper if it were no longer available.

A Zogby poll in 2008 showed that, overall, 48% of respondents primarily get their news from the Internet, 29% from television, 11% from radio, and 10% from newspapers. Breaking it down into age groups, more people 18-29 get their news primarily online than from any other source.

This isn't really surprising, considering how many younger people are comfortable with computers and rely heavily on other technology such as cell phones with Internet access and iPods that can be used to download everything from music to movies. Also, having grown up in a society that has morphed from "work hard and eventually you get what you want" to "gotta have it now," rightly or wrongly, Internet news fits right in with their view of how things work.

The old "anticipation" ad campaign for Heinz ketchup probably wouldn't have caught on today.

A more interesting poll might be how many Americans follow news regularly, no matter what the source. Some people have no idea what's going on in the world and some, including a relative of mine, seem to be proud of that fact. I frankly find that more disturbing than whether people have a higher opinion of Internet news than newsprint news.