And now for the news…

On a day when American newspaper trade publication Editor and Publisher ceases operations, Harpers prints a long reflection on the role of newspapers in the imagining of American cities. Richard Rodriguez reflects:

Most newspapers that are dying today were born in the nineteenth century. TheSeattle Post–Intelligencer died 2009, born 1863. The Rocky Mountain News died 2009, born 1859. The Ann Arbor News died 2009, born 1835. It was the pride and the function of the American newspaper in the nineteenth century to declare the forming congregation of buildings and services a city—a place busy enough or populated enough to have news.

He considers what will be lost:

We will end up with one and a half cities in America—Washington, D.C., andAmerican Idol. We will all live in Washington, D.C., where the conversation is a droning, never advancing, debate between “conservatives” and “liberals.”

but makes the observation that many will not care:

In this morning’s paper there is a quote from an interview San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, gave to The Economist concerning the likelihood that San Francisco will soon be a city without a newspaper: “People under thirty won’t even notice.”

A good read, and whilst there is some misty eyed romanticism, and mythologising of newspaper proprietors, the complexity of change is acknowledged:

Whatever I may say in the rant that follows, I do not believe the decline of newspapers has been the result solely of computer technology or of the Internet. The forces working against newspapers are probably as varied and foregone as the Model-T Ford and the birth-control pill. We like to say that the invention of the internal-combustion engine changed us, changed the way we live. In truth, we built the Model-T Ford because we had changed; we wanted to remake the world to accommodate our restlessness.

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