Newspapers still surviving

Here’s a sample of the television news lately: “Osama bin Laden is dead. For more information stay tuned. We’ll be back after these messages.”

So, if we want to know what’s going on in the world, we are required to wait until after numerous commercial messages. Then we’ll get a snippet, along with a “teaser” promising more in-depth information, again interrupted by commercial messages. The in-depth report turns out to be another snippet of information, just to keep us watching. That’s the way it is, folks.

Many of us, disgusted, simply get on-line. Even then, though, the same few sound-bytes are repeated over and over ad nauseum for hours and days.

I’ll take the newspaper, thank you very much.

Yes, the newspapers carry commercials (advertising), but we’re not trapped into putting up with them. We can choose not to read them if we want. How about that?

Plus if we read more than one newspaper, we can get several differing points of view on their editorial pages, and then make up our own minds using the information we’ve gleaned. In my opinion the death of newspapers, often predicted, hasn’t happened because we citizens want the “full, uninterrupted facts.”

Still, we must keep our antennae at attention. One of my journalism professors admitted, under persistent questioning from us students that “there is no such thing as unbiased reporting.” A simple example is choice of words. One option would be: “The evil mastermind of the 9-11 attacks met his well-deserved doom last night,” while another choice could be: “Osama bin Laden, looking old and frail, left this life last night.”

Can you guess which choice certain television stations and, yes, newspapers would select for their reporting?

On either side of the year 1900 two newspaper moguls, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst tried to outdo each other in presenting the news by exclamation. Here is an example:

“HUNGRY, FRANTIC FLAMES. They Leap Madly Upon the Splendid Pleasure Palace by the Bay of Monterey, Encircling Del Monte in Their Ravenous Embrace From Pinnacle to Foundation. Leaping Higher, Higher, Higher, With Desperate Desire. Running Madly Riotous Through Cornice, Archway and Facade. Rushing in Upon the Trembling Guests with Savage Fury…”

Modern-day readers would laugh at this out-of-control word smithing in the “serious” news, but the tabloid papers get away with it on a daily basis. They don’t worry about facts getting in the way, either.

Johann Gutenberg, who invented the printing press in 1447, would be amazed at what his invention has become. The telegraph (1844), broadcast radio (1920s) and then television (the 1950s) forced newspapers to re-evaluate themselves.

Some newspapers, like USA Today responded with “short, quick and to the point stories” with color graphics.

The amount and immediacy of information on the Internet is unparalleled, but if we readers don’t think it’s true we can’t contact the editor like we can with the newspaper.

Without question newspapers are survivors.

One recent poll estimated that one billion people in the word read at least one newspaper every day. I’m one of those billion.