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The Danger Behind the Decline of Newspapers

Written by Saint Joseph's University on 17 March 2009.

Considering all the layoffs, downsizes and cutbacks reported these days, it's not surprising that the news itself is being cut back. According to Joe Samuel Starnes, visiting assistant professor of English at Saint Joseph's University, "You don't have to look far to see struggling businesses, but newspapers have been going down for a while because of the loss of advertising revenue and readership."

In response to the newspaper industry's decline, he said, "It's concerning because our democracy needs good journalism, and newspapers have supplied and supported a majority of our country's high-quality reporting in the past. If they go away, I don't know if blogs or news sites will be able to replace that."

Newspapers are the best places for good journalism, Starnes said, because they have the manpower and resources to uncover and distribute vital information.

"There are blogs that do some interesting things, but for the most part I think it's dangerous for democracy to rely on these smaller news sites, because then there are fewer reporters knocking on doors and digging up stories. That's the worst part of seeing newspapers decline."

He continued, "Blogs usually employ a handful of people, or just one person, whereas a larger news agency has a bigger staff. Good, investigative reporting is expensive and needs a skilled workforce."

It all comes down to money, and when people started realizing they could advertise for free on Web sites such as craigslist.com, they stopped relying on the classified section of the newspaper. Furthermore, Starnes said that many people don't read the print versions and instead turn to the Internet for their news.

However, at the classroom level, Starnes hasn't seen a decline in journalism's popularity. "There will always be a desire to write, read, and learn how to tell stories. Reporting and journalism will need to transfer to the Web, so the challenge for these businesses will be to figure out how to do that successfully."

Starnes currently teaches several journalism classes, writes freelance for the New York Times, and has more than 20 years of experience in the newspaper and public relations industries.