I hope the title I’ve put on this blog is premature at worst and nonsense at best. I very much fear it is not.
I am a lifelong newspaper reader. Reading the daily paper while I eat my breakfast is a vital part of my daily routine. I admit to being a Luddite in that respect. My news intake comes from my excellent daily paper, not from television, radio, or the internet. By personal preference I don’t have television reception. I do listen to the radio, primarily when I’m in my car. I love listening to NPR and getting their take on the news. However, I don’t listen much at home because during the day I’m busy at my computer, and radio is a distraction. I read while I’m eating a meal, and when I’m through working for the day, I relax with a good book. As for getting news on the internet, while I do occasionally, it is not my preferred method of catching up on the day’s events. It seems too scattershot, rather like a Jackson Pollack painting, spatters here and there. No, for me my newspaper is my window to the world. I’m sharing this bit of my lifestyle not particularly to recommend it. What works well for me won’t necessarily work for everyone. I’m sharing it to explain my deep concern for the health of newspapers locally and across the nation.
My own local newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times, is an excellent paper, winner of many awards for the quality of its reporting, and noted for the way its reportage casts light on problems such as the dumping of sewage into our bay, the poor job that schools serving our African-American neighborhoods are doing, the abuses suffered by prisoners in our privately operated prison system, the failure to protect children in our foster care system. These and other well documented and meticulously researched in-depth exposés have proven efficacious in pressuring out governing officials to take corrective measures. The newspaper provides us with a reliable measure of our community health.
Now, however, it is the newspaper that is ailing. The tariff President Trump imposed on newsprint from Canada has put newspapers across the nation on forced diets, raising the expense of producing the paper to the point of having to lay off reporters and other staff and reducing the number of pages they can afford to publish. With great alarm I see my wonderful Tampa Bay Times thinning as features are dropped and articles shortened, and I know this is happening not just locally but across the country.
Can it be accidental that a president who rails against “fake news” and calls the media “the enemy of the people” has instituted a measure that causes harm and in some cases sounds a death knell to newspapers that so often are the first to reveal behind-the-scenes machinations? Newspapers that courageously place their reporters in harm’s way to reveal facts some would prefer to remain hidden?
If newspapers fail, will their final act be to write the obituary of truth?