Volume 16, Issue 36 - September 4 - September 10, 2008

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Letter From the Editor

On the Far Side of Revolution

Dear Reader:

In the second century of the information age, the fierce competition of the fittest to survive is transforming newspapers from the outside and rotting them away from within.

Alas, newspapers have brought this fate upon themselves.

In the 18th century, newspapers were a revolution, made possible by growing technology and fostered by newly educated people, who not only created these broadsheets but read them.

So successful was the revolution that by America’s 20th century, everybody read a daily newspaper — or many. Cities supported two, three or four dailies, and dozens of less-frequent special interest papers.

Readers matched their paper to their interests — political, ethnic, religious — and papers reinforced those interests.

Publishers made fortunes, reporters competed for scoops and readers spent satisfied hours with what a now-defunct Chicago Daily News editor called “a daily novel of the city.”

Newspapers were still thriving in the turbulent 1960s, when the heady climate of independent thinking gave birth to a new species: the alternative weekly. New technology — desktop publishing — sweetened the climate, and alternatives flourished, from New York’s Village Voice to Bay Weekly, born in 1993 via the revolutionary Macintosh computer.

Today, it’s a different world. How so?

New media like the Internet, for sure. But their competition for readers hungry for information is not the whole story. While new media grew strong, newspapers large and small lost their voices and their connections to readers.

After generations of 20-percent and greater profits, publishers grew greedy. Many newspapers gave up their independence for the profits of trading their stock publicly. Others lost their identities in sales mergers.

With their independence, newspapers lost their moral authority. Seeking ever-greater profit, they sacrificed their dedication to a rich, diverse package of information. To compete with the many strange species of new media, they confused innovation with novelty.

Bring in a recessionary dip in ad revenues, and you get newspapers that are half sorry shadows of their old selves and half tarted-up new-media impersonators.

In this changing newspaper climate, a still-independent paper is something like an ivory-billed woodpecker.

Bay Weekly is that rare bird.

Independent as ever, we’re grounded in our mission to reflect the best in Chesapeake County and to report on ways we can all sustain our quality of life in this changing climate.

What else should we do to keep fit?

That question is the point of this continuing conversation. Share your thoughts at [email protected].

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.