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Opening Arguments

All the news, really

An article in Reason argues that the death of newspapers won't mean the death of news:

News, on the other hand, is doing great on the Web. While newspaper loyalists are forever touting the original reporting that appears in your morning fish wrap as the factor that distinguishes it from the hordes of opinion-spouting bloggers, what the Web has really revealed is how much territory newspapers have left either underreported or completely untouched. Newspapers never systematically reviewed school-teachers, for example, and now they've been scooped by the angry third-grade muckrakers who post at RateMyTeacher.com. They never systematically reviewed the lying, cheating “dumpster dawgs” that women should avoid at all costs, but the citizen journalists at DontDateHimGirl.com cover such territory thoroughly, supplying names, addresses, employer information, and more. When I want to learn something about the new hardware store that just opened in my neighborhood, I find the answers at Yelp.com, not in the San Francisco Chronicle. When I want to know what all those sirens that woke me up last night were responding to, I search for clues on Everyblock.com. Call this information trivial if you like, but it's certainly serving the local public interest in a way that, say, a New York Times dispatch from the front lines of the fish wars on East Africa's Migingo Island can't touch.

[. . .]

In short order, we've seen the rise of Politico, which launched in 2007 with a mandate to report on Capitol Hill with a TMZ-like intensity and now has an editorial staff of 75. We've seen the creation of ProPublica.org, the “non-profit newsroom” funded by the billionaire left-wing philanthropists Herbert and Marion Sandler to produce work that “shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong.” The Huffington Post, like a horrible disease or an endangered species, relied upon the altruism of celebrity volunteers in its earliest days, but now it has a paid editorial staff of 60 (along with 3,000 unpaid contributors). The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit set to launch in November with a mandate of serving as the state's watchdog, has hired away editors and reporters from Texas Monthly, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and the El Paso Times

The author argues that, although journalism may be in flux right now, the long-term trend is "toward more transparencey, more news, a better-informed citizenry. That sounds right