The subtitle of this impassioned essay — ” The Future of the News that Feeds Democracy” — tells half the story, one that’s familiar to any alert reader of today’s major newspapers. The other half of the story, equally familiar, is about how the Internet is undermining the newspaper industry and, in the process, steadily replacing the world as we know it with a frighteningly unknown future.
Alex Jones, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, comes to these themes honestly as the scion of a small-town Tennessee newspaper family. It’s no wonder he feels threatened.
Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy by Alex S. Jones @@@ (3 out of 5)
In all fairness, there is considerable reason for apprehension over the decline of America’s major newspapers. Reflecting shrunken profits, repeated staff layoffs, closed news bureaus, and greater reliance on syndicated material, the nation’s once-fat dailies are slimming down at a terrifying pace. In place of the papers’ often earnest efforts at “objectivity,” we are increasingly basing our views on the unedited diatribes to be found on the likes of Fox “News” and the daily blogosphere. The perils for democracy in America are obvious. For example, could the so-called “Tea Party” have thrived in a world largely dependent on newspapers for its information? Or is that sad testament to the profound ignorance of the American people a product of Fox News, talk radio, and organized Internet rumor-mongering? You won’t be surprised to learn that there is no question in my mind that, despite its familiarity to the 19th-Century No-Nothing movement, I’m convinced the Tea Party is an artifact of the channels through which we now receive so much of our political information.
Jones writes well, and my harsh criticism may not be entirely deserved. However, it comes from my nagging feeling as I read this book that its underlying theme is nostalgia, a craving for the day when so much of the news that appeared in the nation’s dailies and on the air originated in the early edition of the Old Gray Lady, The New York Times. Those days are fast receding into history, and as Jones himself writes, there’s not much anyone can do about it other than “Adapt or Die.”
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