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EDITORIAL: Dead tree journalists aren't dead just yet

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By The Staff

Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker opined recently that at least some of the blame for the decline of newspapers rests at the feet of right-wing pundits who have spent the past couple of decades pummeling them as left-wing rags.

She makes a fairly compelling argument. From Limbaugh to Hannity to Savage, the radio heads bash and bash and bash some more the nation’s dead tree journalists for their biased reporting which indeed often veers left of center.

Add to Parker’s theory the fact that most readers rightfully reject left- or right-leaning reporting in lieu of just being told the facts and it’s easy to see that many large newspapers have cooked a pot of inedible stew that is systematically being vomited back in their faces.

From Seattle to New York, the nation’s most venerable newspapers are sinking faster than Barnhart and Todd told Billy Clyde to beat it. Even our friends at the Herald-Leader are circling the drain it seems, as evidenced by yet another round of layoffs in the newsroom and beyond.

Joyous news, indeed, for the above holy trinity of bashers. But the jig they dance is a perilous one that will leave them teetering on the brink if local and national newspaper operations go the way of the do-do bird.

Limbaugh, et. al., like the rest of America, should consider what life would be like if newspapers as we know them largely disappear.

Along with them would go most of journalists and national newsgathering organizations that provide daily fodder for the bashers and content for the “I only read news online” crowd. Without newspapers, most websites would be void of actual news.

Don’t believe that? Surf around the Internet for a few minutes and you will see that nearly all of news stories are links to articles written by the Associated Press, Reuters or a writer from a specific newspaper. Extract those articles and what you’d have left online is a mish-mash of unvetted bloggers who have no compelling reason to report facts while posting their drivel from their mom and dad’s basement.

And don’t even begin to think that radio and TV newsrooms stand ready to pick up the slack. Nationally, the big three networks have lost two thirds of their viewers during the past 20 years and have problems at least as bad as newspapers. Cable news stations don’t have nearly the resources of their broadcasting brothers — without NBC’s news department, CNBC and MSNBC would be nothing more than a place to watch infomercials from the recently busted ShamWow! guy.

What about Fox, you ask? Watch Fox News and pay attention to just how many actual news stories outside of yet another Obama slam are done by the network vs. one of its affiliates.

At the local level, radio stations without newspapers to read during the two minutes each hour they pretend to report news would be reduced to playing more bad bumper music.

As for TV stations, ask yourself when the last time you saw one of their reporters at a city, county or school government meeting. You can’t because they don’t cover those or much of anything else that doesn’t include a corpse. They get those news items — wait for it — from newspapers. In short, radio, Internet and TV stations feed on newspapers like maggots feasting on a fly-blown rump roast.

The question really isn’t what the country would be like without newspapers, it’s what should happen to sustain them.

Some politicians have suggested making them non-profits, of sorts, as long as they drop their pesky habit of editorially endorsing political candidates. Others have called for a repeal of anti-trust laws that prevent them from becoming news and advertising monopolies, and some have even considered joining banks and carmakers and begging for an Obama bailout.

Our view is that even the best and brightest newspaper folks in the world have yet to devise a solution to keep the ink — or perhaps cyber ink — flowing. But that doesn’t mean the answer isn’t on its way.

In the meantime, we’ll keep feeding the Internet, Hannity, TV and radio stations their daily rations, and keeping you, dear reader, informed to the best of our abilities.