The death of the Rocky Mountain News and the print version of the Seattle PostIntelligencer have led to lots of handwringing about the future of newspapers and an open society. “If newspapers go bust there will be nobody covering city hall,” says The New York Times more easily be captured by vested interests and voter turnout will fall.”
Hogwash! In most American cities, newspapers have been the biggest proponents of wild schemes promoted by the often-corrupt denizens of city halls and the various special interests that will benefit from those schemes. Want to build a convention center, light-rail line, or stadium at taxpayers’ expense? Your major newspapers are far more likely to back you than oppose you.
The notion that bloggers and other internet media can’t replace newspapers is similarly absurd. The two most reliable reporters on Iraq, Michael Yon and Michael Totten, are bloggers. Jack Bogdanski, a law professor-blogger in Portland, has done more to uncover the shady finances behind the city’s rail transit and real estate deals than any reporter with the Oregonian. Squandered Heritage, Humid City, and similar blogs have kept the pressure on the screw-up politicians who have mismanaged New Orleans since Katrina. And Autoextremist.com is a much better source of information on the auto industry than the Detroit News or any other paper.
Both the Rocky and the P-I have published my op-eds and I was sorry to see them go. But personally, I find I get better, more balanced information from blogs, thinktanks, and other web sources than a single newspaper that is most likely biased in favor of big government.