Two institutions that keep the populous of this city informed, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, are slowly circling the drain. These papers that keep the city knowledgeable were recently instructed by their parent company Knight-Ridder to cut back on already meager reporting staffs at a time where the city may need them the most.
Philadelphia is in the middle of great changes. National Geographic Traveler named it the “next great city.” Businesses are migrating here to avoid skyrocketing real estate costs in New York City and our own Temple University is growing. Yet at the same time, City Hall is knee-deep in pay-to-play corruption.
Readership among many groups are down, with each generation reading the newspaper less. According to the Newspaper Association of America, 65 percent of 55 to 64-year-olds read the paper, while only 40 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds do. We’re a decade away from having Sally Struthers asking us to adopt a journalist.
We need our “watchdogs” more than ever. But as newspaper readership plummets, so do profits. As in any business when profits are low, heads will roll. However, we have the power to reverse this downward trend and be the most influential generation since the 1800s when it comes to choice of media.
In today’s fractured media market, the newspaper is still king. Nothing can quite match the feeling to physically holding such an important tool of democracy in your hands with vivid pictures and headlines that can’t be matched digitally. While blogs and Internet content give the consumers the exact news they ask for, that is inherently the problem.
Because people can be highly selective of what they read, they put up blinders to the rest of the world. Newspapers can present the reader with information that they may not have been aware of but would still like to learn.
Like most of America, I am not actively abreast of French affairs. However, once the French youth began to riot, it became news that was especially relevant to Americans, due to the Muslim tensions involved. I wouldn’t have discovered this in my selective Internet search for news. The Internet should act as a news supplement, delving deeper into other stories, but not the sole source of news.
Newspapers contain the most localized news stories that readers can find. No publication can look out for a neighborhood better than the people who live there themselves. Hometown papers and the free exchange of information are essential for democratic governments to function. When a staff of journalists from a town seeks news it will be most relevant to that town.
The Inquirer and Daily News are entrusted with informing and protecting the populace. The new pay-to-play reforms probably would not have been possible without the pressure of newspapers and the public. A national team of journalists would not be able to provide the same service. Local journalists are the best at putting national stories into a local perspective.
The first step to reviving newspapers is the tradition of reading the paper at breakfast. For students living in dorms, The Collegiate Readership Program provides free newspapers. Students should grab one on the way to class. Thus, they’ll know more about the world around them.
With more youth rather than corporate involvement, newspapers still have a lot of life left in them. It all depends on our generation’s actions. If you are holding this newspaper and reading this article, you are probably not part of the epidemic. This is the first step.
Sean Blanda can be reached at scblanda@Gmail.com.