I laughed. And then I cried.

by Roger Pynn

Orlando Sentinel Cartoon

My old colleague, incredibly talented Orlando Sentinel Editorial Cartoonist Dana Summers’ front page cartoon told such a sad story. It reminded me of one of my old posts (Ode to the Paper Boy) in which I worried about the day I’d wander out to the curb before dawn and wait for my paper to arrive on my cell phone.

Then my favorite Miami Herald Columnist Leonard Pitts took off on a variety of culprits he seems to blame for the impending death of his industry and I cried some more … but for a different reason.

Pitts was commenting on statistics in the latest Pew Report on the State of the Media in which the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalsim found more than 60 percent of those it polled said they wouldn’t miss their local papers if they folded.

“It is the insult that compounds the injury, by which I mean the growing sense that we are working on the last major story of our lives, and it is an obituary. Ours,” wrote Pitts. And although he at least let the newspaper industry share some of the blame “because we failed to anticipate and strategize,” what has to be discussed is whether the responsibility goes beyond having missed the mark on transition to the Internet.

People haven’t turned away from newspapers because of the Internet. They are turning away from newspapers because papers aren’t meeting their needs. Pitts says “…only the local paper performs the critical function of holding accountable the mayor, the governor, the local magnates and potentates for how they spend your money, run your institutions, validate or violate your trust. If newspapers go, no other entity will have the wherewithal to do that.”

He’s right. But papers used to do so much more. It isn’t just about investigative journalism. It isn’t just about being a watchdog.

People want to read insightful articles about what is happening in the world around them. They want to be alerted to things that can enrich their lives. Sure, they want to know about scoundrels … but a steady diet of what’s wrong gets old just like beans and franks for dinner.

The question has to be asked whether the industry has invested way too little in basic news coverage and way too much in things that drive readers elsewhere.

Pitts said, “Sixty-three percent of all Americans think they won’t miss the daily paper? I think 63 percent of all Americans are wrong.”

I think 63 percent of all Americans already miss their daily paper.

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