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Opening Arguments

Community

Connie Schultz is a former Cleveleand Plain Dealer columnist who is now syndicated. I heard her on NPR yesterday, being asked about a recent column in which she urged Clark Kent to give newspapers one more chance instead of going through with his decision to leave the Daily Planet and start a blog. She gave one of the most spirited defenses of our profession that I've heard in quite a while:

CONAN: There is an aspect, I mean, you've talked about some spectacular stories covered well by regional papers. There are any number of county board meetings. There are discussion groups. There are all kinds of activities in the community that have always been covered by newspaper reporters, often cub reporters. But nevertheless, Jimmy Olsen has to get started somewhere too.

SCHULTZ: That's right.

CONAN: And those kinds of stories will not go covered, it seems to me, by - on the Web - or at least not as interestedly covered.

SCHULTZ: That's right. And when you stop covering communities at that level, you stop telling communities who they - you know, you stop showing them who they are. You stop giving - holding up the mirror and letting them know what's happened in the communities. And as you know, it's all - everything starts locally. Every movement starts locally. Every concern and - and the Plain Dealer in the last couple of years did a tremendous job covering the county corruption scandals that really - it was a Democratic Party and it was Jimmy Dimora who finally went to prison and a bunch of his cronies. And it was startling to watch it unfold.

And nobody could cover it like the Plain Dealer did, and it was a hard story to follow, day in and day out. And some readers said, oh, enough already. But, you know, that is one of the most important things that newspapers do. And I say this as a wife of the United States senator. We have to have newspapers covering elected officials. It's - it is the last stop before corruption. If you don't have newspapers keeping an eye, then they will get away with murder.

Yes, the version of the news we put at your front door is way too old by today's standards. But newspapers are still the only institutions with staffs big enough (barely, so far) to dig out the day-to-day kind of stuff no one else will, and it's also hard to imagine who else could create the sense of community a newspaper does. So don't pray for our demise to come too soon, 'K?

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