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In praise of Alterman*--updated!

The latest New Yorker features an excellent piece by Eric Alterman on the demise of the newspaper and its social implications. The story has a number of strengths, but I'm most impressed by Alterman's restraint: while he doesn't idealize the past, he's also attuned to the pitfalls of the future. Here's a taste:

[W]e are about to enter a fractured, chaotic world of news, characterized by superior community conversation but a decidedly diminished level of first-rate journalism. The transformation of newspapers from enterprises devoted to objective reporting to a cluster of communities, each engaged in its own kind of “news”––and each with its own set of “truths” upon which to base debate and discussion––will mean the loss of a single national narrative and agreed-upon set of “facts” by which to conduct our politics. News will become increasingly “red” or “blue.” This is not utterly new. Before Adolph Ochs took over the Times, in 1896, and issued his famous “without fear or favor” declaration, the American scene was dominated by brazenly partisan newspapers. And the news cultures of many European nations long ago embraced the notion of competing narratives for different political communities, with individual newspapers reflecting the views of each faction. It may not be entirely coincidental that these nations enjoy a level of political engagement that dwarfs that of the United States.

Just one small gripe: Alterman cites the Huffington Post as a fine new journalistic model. "Arthur Miller once described a good newspaper as 'a nation talking to itself,'"  he writes. "If only in this respect, the Huffington Post is a great newspaper." But he doesn't note that he's part of the HuffPo stable of bloggers. Even though, according to Alterman,this work is unpaid, it's still worth mentioning.

UPDATE: Here's Alterman's response:

Hi Adam
 
Thanks for the kind words.
 
While I don't think it's so important that HP has reprinted Altercation from time to time--I think it more relevant that I've been paid tens of thousands of dollars by the new york times--I do mention in my contributor's note in the magazine, so there's no confusion on the part of the reader
 
best
 
Eric A

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