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As Newspapers Implode, Diverse Voices Move Online

The newspaper death watch continues: As Newspapers Implode, Diverse Voices Move Online

As newspapers struggle to keep their footing and retain their place in our democracy, there has been increasing talk about the need to give the public courses in media literacy. The thinking behind this movement is that if people truly understood the role the news media plays in the public discourse they would understand the danger to democracy if papers vanish.
The problem with that solution is that it ignores the fact many feel that news organizations routinely paint a stereotypical and one-dimensional picture of their lives. In those cases, many people believe mainstream news organizations detract from rather than add to the public discourse around issues important to their lives.

Any media that is mismatched to the needs and interests of the market it wishes to serve has a dim future. The multi-perspective (in theory at least…it depends on whether or not we avail ourselves to opinions contrary from our own) personalized, social online world is one that newspapers cannot duplicate in print form. In a presentation a few weeks ago, I argued that universities face a similar challenge of relevance. Universities – as with media – need to “map reality” (Frank and Gabler), namely the concerns, trends, and vital interests of a society. Newspapers are playing the “democracy is in danger” card…much like universities will play the “society is in danger” angle. That’s a misplaced view. Mismatching form and function (between university and society) calls into question the future of universities, not society.