Friday, August 28, 2009

The Importance of News

In "Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy," Alex Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, makes an important argument: that newspapers serve democracy in ways that websites have not.

According to Jones, 85 percent of fact-based news comes from newspapers. Other media, including TV and the websites, pick up their news and analysis from what's uncovered by newspapers. This has been true for a long time -- I've seen many cases were NY Times stories set the agenda for the morning shows and have a domino impact throughout the day. Jones says that's still the case today.

The news is not merely what happened yesterday, but an awareness and context for information. For example, it can takes months of investigative journalism to sort truth from rumors and provide the public with information.

And, Jones claims, 150-word articles on a website are not designed to ferret out that kind of news.

The solution: We continue to need organizations that track and uncover news. It just might not be traditional newspapers, although Jones is more optimistic on this point. Well worth checking out. Or, if you don't have time, check out Harold Evans' review in the New York Times.

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