Being human, he had somewhat of a change of heart after he became president, and the papers started picking on him. Today, while government in Michigan is in financial trouble at virtually all levels, it doesn’t look likely to go out of existence.
Sadly, we can’t say the same thing for newspapers. Shocking as it is, before this year is over, we may actually see cities in Michigan that no longer have a newspaper, not one published on paper, anyway. And if that happens, I believe that democracy as we know it will be seriously threatened.
Now, I can imagine what some of you are thinking, which is: Dinosaur. Just can’t handle technological change, can you? The automobile replaced the buggy and the personal computer replaced the electric typewriter, and we are much better for it.
Newspapers are migrating to cyberspace. They will be just as good, and kill fewer trees. And if you still can’t handle that, then figure out how you can possibly run a profitable newspaper in today’s world.
Oh - and make your calculations on your abacus.
That’s a fair point. Yes, I prefer reading words on paper, and browsing randomly through printed pages to reading stories online. But that’s not why I am upset about what’s happening to newspapers.
It is that this isn’t just a matter of technology changing but of the newspapers themselves disappearing.
Or, at least, what made them great disappearing, which is their watchdog function, especially at the local level.
“Democracy dies behind closed doors,” my friend Helen Thomas, a native Detroiter, likes to say. She’s still front row and backstage at the White House, though she turns 89 this summer.
She’s been forcing the doors open all her life, for women, for the press, for all of us. I am confident there will be reporters, no matter what the technology, keeping an eye on the President. But what I fear we will lose are the reporters telling us what the politicians in Dexter and Chelsea and Flint and Saginaw are up to.
And that may be a far bigger threat to our nation than al-Qaeda. Newspapers used to make vast amounts of money from advertising, so much that the corporations which owned them could get rich and still have money left for journalism.
But much of that revenue started to vanish around the turn of the century. The corporations, which had gotten greedy, slashed expenses and raised prices, offering people essentially less product for more money. That didn’t work. Today, there is advertising revenue in cyberspace - but only a fraction of what there used to be on paper.
Unless that changes, in most places nobody is going to be able to afford toner-stained wretches to inform us about what’s happening to our communities and ourselves. And from the standpoint of the citizens, that is likely to be the unkindest cut of all.