“The broad spectrum of knowledge, the ability to probe into the meaning of an event and the ability to write clearly and concisely in newspaper style are the essence of professionalism.” –Betty Southard Murphy
What happens to local communities if their papers shut down? The immediate answer is that people will get their news online, which works if you didn’t read the question carefully. While the web is startlingly good at aggregating news from the far flung corners of the globe, it’s not so good at telling you what’s going on in your city hall.
The problem is that in most communities, the average reader knows little to nothing about using the web for content production, if the local paper disappeared it would be easier for them to get information about what’s going on in Iran than it would to get information about what’s going on down the street. Add to it the fact that many people on the margins (those who would benefit the most from news access) don’t have appropriate Internet access and you start to see the depth of this problem.
One more feather for your hat before I turn it over to UMD’s panel on the subject. Local newsrooms serve a purpose beyond simply gathering the news, they also act as watchdogs, giving local governments a reason to look over their shoulder and providing an “objective” look at how local business is really being run. Whether the future of newspaper’s is ink on dead trees is up in the air, but what’s more difficult to argue is the necessity of consistent, quality local news.
Without the newsroom or some alternative, the big question becomes who will step in to watch the kitchen?