The embattled Boston Globe ran a compelling justification of why we need newspapers, "What newspapers do."
Of course it's self-serving, but it's worth reading.
The fact is we need media outlets who seek to serve the greater good. From my perspective, that's no doubt about that.
I do think that online-only media outlets can provide the same service that newspapers have. I just don't know that we'll be able to get that when news outlets are all online. I think it will be more difficult to pull people together when we're all ready different news items online -- instead of reacting to newspaper headlines while commuting (via mass transit) to the office.
Even if you don't subscribe to newspapers, when you see them on newsstands, at a convenience store, or on a colleague's desk or on the subway, train or bus on the way to work, the headlines do have an impact, and help set an agenda. You can be pro or con to what's being reported, but there's an agenda.
I'm sure something will evolve, but that agenda-setting capability won't be replaced easily by online-only news media.
As more newspapers stopping fighting the inevitable and shift to online-only mode, another way to unite our experience goes by the wayside.