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Reader faults newspapers for losing readers

Responding to a recent letter to the editor in the ProJo, Tavit Smith of Wakefield today makes the case that newspapers fully bear the blame for declining readership:

In response to Brian Wilder’s July letter, “We must all save America’s newspapers,” I must commend him on his passionate desire to maintain a strong free press, but I think his proposed solutions are misguided. Why should the onus of responsibility be placed in the hands of the readers?

Are newspapers relevant any longer? Do they inform and educate? I don’t think so. It is my impression that newspapers around the country have failed their readers repeatedly and consistently. Why is it that I have to go to the Internet to keep informed of national and international events? Why is investigative journalism a relic? Let’s face the facts: Most news today is little more than reprints of press releases.

Was there anything in today’s paper that would make you want to buy tomorrow’s paper? Were you intrigued? Were you “hooked” on any of the articles? I would imagine not.

You want me to buy more newspapers? Then educate me – present the controversies, print opposing views (side by side). When someone lies, or changes their story, print it. Stop being so safe. Take a chance. Ruffle feathers. Make me want to read tomorrow’s paper and the one after that, and the one after that.

Do I think that the Internet has had a negative impact on readership? Of course, but the solution is not for print newspapers to cry “no fair,” but to use the new medium to supplement their offering.

Today’s newspapers are pabulum in a world that feels as though it is spinning out of control. You want me to buy more newspapers? Then make the newspaper relevant. Take the lead. Don’t simply rehash, get in there and fight.

Smith is right, of course. While the ProJo still has a considerable amount of good journalism, it -- like scores of other American newspapers -- is thinner and less vibrant than it used to be. While Wilder hit on the adverse effect of shrinking papers, Smith is correct to fault a broader lack of imagination and enterprise in the ongoing transition to the Internet era.

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