Life is Elsewhere

By Daniel Akst

In the Nation, there's an allegation that newspapers have always sucked, so we should just shut up already about their protracted death throes. And I see from the jeering comments on one of my earlier posts that some people agree.

This argument seems to depend on the failure of newspapers to conform to the political perspective of their criticizers. It also seems to depend on the papers' coverage of Washington. If only these newspapers weren't so damned politically correct, or so blind to the perfidy of Republicans, or so timid, or so reckless or--well, you name it.

But Washington isn't my main worry, because shocking as it may seem, there is life elsewhere. I'm worried about who will cover the city government of Peoria, or keep an eye on the courts in Kalamazoo. Who will write up the prep sports and the local controversies? Who will cover the schools and the centenarians? In our small town the local weekly (and yes, it stank up the joint) folded. We get news now by word of mouth, if we get it at all. It's kind of medieval. Never mind the near-invisibility of our state legislators or our representative in Congress.

Of course there's plenty to worry about in Washington too. How long do you think the Washington Post and the NY Times can sustain the burden of this coverage? Or do we really believe we'd all be better off without it?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/05/life-is-elsewhere/17667/