10/28/2009 - Thomas Jefferson famously said that if he had to choose between having a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, he wouldn't hesitate to choose the latter. Jefferson was right, but I'd rather have a government without newspapers than newspapers that depend on government for economic survival.
The issue is suddenly timely as politicians in Washingtonand in some statehouses are ruminating about whether government should come to the rescue of newspapers that are careening toward bankruptcy.
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In a fragmented media world, where cable TV and self-appointed Internet bloggers are dishing out national news, opinion and gossip 24/7, if you can't make local news a niche product that has inherent value to consumers, your prospects for survival are dim. Indeed, despite the fact that some 30 million newspapers are sold daily in this country, the argument raging in the journalism world is whether it's already too late to save them.
That's a bogus argument, and a recent poll by the Pew Research Center helps make the case to refute it. Pew found that 74% of respondents thought it would be an "important loss" if their local newspaper shut down. Sixty-two percent said they supported the watchdog role performed by news organizations because it keeps political leaders from "doing things that should not be done."
Read the full editorial Media Executives Should Let Local News Lead the Way on USA Today's Web site.