...for a long, long time, articles on swinging into spring with patent leather have been subsidizing coverage of less-popular-yet-more-vital topics like foreign policy and the Department of Agriculture. The web is rapidly disaggregating the readers, and hence the subsidy. And that's a big problem for society. One for which so far, no one has proposed any very satisfactory solution.
Other observers are foolishly cheering the fall of large newspapers. While there are some positive developments accompanying the rise of "new media," those who trumpet the death of large national newspapers go a bit too far. Kyle Szarzynski, for example, got out his pom pons and danced around the pyre:
The newspaper titans, after all, are the great purveyors of state propaganda, cultural hegemony and an arrogance that deserves to be destroyed. And it’s gotten worse. There was once a time when The New York Review of Books could find room for its token lefties like Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal. Now, opinions in the mainstream media to the left of the Democratic Party are about as scarce as students on this campus who care about Associated Students of Madison’s efforts toward “reform.”
Newspapers are really the extensions of a few giant corporations that have interests in all areas of the economy. It’s inevitable that their viewpoints are going to reflect those of the elite, and this explains the conformity of opinion on its pages.
Oh. Well, the great purveyors also erected an edifice or two that actually has the resources to function as a check on government. As McArdle points out, when those major journalistic structures are weakened by the divergence between fluff and substantive journalistic content, the substantive content will suffer most. And that limits our ability to self-govern. While bloggers and other online new media sources can serve a critical watchdog role, they do not fully replace the resources and heft of a traditional investigate newsroom.