For most of the 20th century, newspapers were the primary source of information for the American public. At their best, they held governments and corporations to account and set the news agenda for the rest of the mass media. Until the early 1990s, the newspaper business was doing extremely well, earning staggering returns for its owners and shareholders. But more recently, it has been forced to rethink its place in a world of wireless communication.
Last year was the worst on record for the U.S. newspaper industry. Already hit hard by decreasing circulation and declining ad revenues, newspapers across the country laid off staff and cut editions to counter the combined effects of online competition and economic recession. Locally, the Star Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection in January, only emerging in late September. Just months after its workers agreed to concessions in bankruptcy, the St. Paul Pioneer Press opened discussions with its guild members seeking similar cuts.
Are today's diminished news organizations capable of sustaining the informed citizenry on which democracy depends? Are newspapers an endangered species? Or are they just obsessing too much over the "paper" part of their names?
On December 3, join Nora Paul, founding director of the University of Minnesota's Institute for New Media Studies, as she explores new models for the news.