Newspaper ashes to ashes, dust to dustup

Alan Mutter and I duke it out (well, not really) in an LA Times Dustup over the state and fate of newspapers for the next three days. Alan and I agree about a lot – except the wisdom and reality of charging for paper content. So I’m not sure we’ll be be kicking up a whole lot of dust. Here’s the first installment. The question: Are newspapers dying, or is it just a class of newspapers that isn’t sustainable?

The start of my answer:

Frankly, dear readers, I don’t give a damn whether papers survive. I care whether journalism advances and whether communities can get the information they need, which includes reporting. That is why I teach the craft. That is also why I’ve argued for years that newspapers should have planned for the date when they would turn off their presses so they would reinvent themselves. They didn’t.

I now realize, in my mind’s eye, that I had hoped — and worked, unsuccessfully — for an orderly transition from the old to the new: a Jan. 20 for newspapers when the print president would hand over control to the digital president. I now see that there will be no such smooth shift because, understandably, it’s hard to disrupt and destroy yourself. There will be destruction, voids and vacuums. Good people — not just reporters and editors but pressmen and drivers and classified sales people — will lose their jobs. In too many towns, news will fall silent.

But news will rise from those ashes. I am confident in that because I believe there is a market demand for quality news and information, and where there is a market, someone will meet the demand. . . .