A lot of conservatives are cheering the struggles of the MSM, even wishing for the imminent demise of all those biased, leftwing newspapers that deserve what they're getting. Be careful what you wish for, says Rick Henderson, for the last three years an editorial writer for the now-dead-and-gone Rocky Mountain News:
Because until some new business model emerges to fill the information void that's left when a newspaper dies — so far, the Internet is not that business model — you're going to know less about the workings of government and other public institutions. And don't think for a moment that politicians, bureaucrats, and their interest-group allies are unaware of this development.
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But there's a broader argument here that many other intelligent conservatives have put forth: Liberal biases and agendas taint a lot of straight-news writing, and the demise of newspapers will put an end to that.
Not so fast. When newspapers die, a public watchdog is buried with them. And for now, nothing else can be counted on to take up the slack.
Newspapers pay people to sit through endless city-council and land-use-planning and legislative-committee hearings, enduring the sausage-making process that is modern government. These reporters tell readers what's going on and — when they're at their journalistic best — what it all means. They take the trouble to analyze court decisions and search government records and decipher regulatory filings and pore through leaks from public-spirited civil servants.
Bloggers do good work, and they're getting even better, but they can't replace what a newspaper staff does. Until and unless somebody figures out how to make money providing news via the Internet, every loss of a newspaper will create a void that will be hard to fill.