The discussions a lot of us have been having about the future of newspapers were kicked into overdrive by the pressure to sell being felt by Knight Ridder (parent company of my newspaper). Jeff Jarvis has been blogging up a storm about the subject. In Newspapers as charities, utilities, infrastructure, he writes about how panic is causing some people to argue that newspapers should be something other than businesses forced to make a profit. In Newspapers as mainframes, he talks about the lack of innovation caused by newspapers' monopopy status in most cities. ("How many industries can you name where the product form, features and delivery has not changed in 75 years?") In The new order, he describes old-line media types who see searching online as an enemy. In The last presses, he notes that some people in print are beginning to look to a future beyond the printing press.
As Jarvis says:
Newspapers have neither a constitutional nor a God-given right to exist. They exist if they serve their communities well and are supported by those communities in one way or another.
People are always going to seek knowledge of the world around them. Others are always going to try to provide it, usually in a way that makes them a profit. Those are the only constants in the ever-evolving information revolution. Because of who I am and what I've devoted my professional life to, I still think there's magic in newspapers as we know them today, ink on paper delivered to your door. But magic tends to be a personal experience, not a universal, immutable truth.