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The Rise And Fall Of The Daily Newspaper

— Last week I attended an NPR blogging seminar where one of the presenters showed us the graph you see here. It was the most graphic portrait I’ve yet seen of what’s happening to media in the U.S.

Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Above: Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The rise and fall of the newspaper industry as an employer mirrors its rise and fall as a journalistic and societal force. The graph strikes a personal chord for me as I look at the years when newspapers were the biggest they’d ever been… the late 1980s. I graduated from journalism school at the University of Minnesota in 1987.

I entered this business when the metro daily newspaper was the big dog. It overshadowed all else with its news gathering and its influence over society and government. We now know that was just a moment in media history that relied on the short-lived power of newspapers’ economic model. Today, we don’t look for used cars and apartment rentals in the newspaper’s classified ads. We look on Craig’s List and CarMax… online.

Diehards who love the printed word will never leave newspapers, and papers will probably continue in some form. It’s taken me a long time to accept the fall of the daily broadsheet, which has served the first amendment as well as any other institution.

Like I said, I came of age when papers were the way of the world.

Now I just hope people remember that good information costs money, whether it's paid in a subscription or in a public radio membership. Wish luck to the news business in figuring out what will be the next economic model that will support coverage of the stuff people need to know about in a democracy.

PS: Leave a comment below and let me know if you still use a daily newspaper like the U-T or the NY Times. Do you read it online or does the paper still hit the your driveway at 4 a.m?

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