Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2011 Issue

Newspapers Declining as Local News Source

Pewlocalnews

Pew report on declining newspaper readership.

The role of newspapers in the community, and with it, perhaps, their long term viability, continues to diminish, a report recently released by the Pew Research Center revealed. They may find themselves in a position similar to the old-style large department stores, like Sears and Wards. They offered a multitude of products, but were not outstanding in any. Much of their business moved to specialty retailers who could fill a particular category better. We hear much about the decline of physical books these days, but the prospects for printed newspapers may be far more dire than printed books.

Earlier research had shown a significantly declining role for local newspapers in the reporting of national and international news. A Pew report released in January disclosed that newspapers had dropped from being one of the top two sources of such news for 50% of the population in 2003 to just 31% of the population in 2010. It is a steady, and likely inexorable decline, as printed newspapers can never again be timely in the internet age. Even television dropped from 80% to 66% over that time period, but the internet rose dramatically, climbing from 20% to 41%.

However, newspapers have always been a mainstay of local news, or at least so we thought. Most national and international news comes from sources like the AP, which can be accessed online, but there aren't such sources for local news. It has primarily been either the local newspaper or television. And, newspapers, which tend to provide more stories and greater, in-depth coverage, had a leg up on their rivals.

That advantage does still show in some ways. Despite its declining position, newspapers still lead as the primary local news source in 11 of 16 categories. The problem is that these are not the topics that are of the greatest interest to most people. Only one was a leading subject – crime – while others included such things as community events, art, government activity, zoning, and social services. Newspapers trailed in the top two categories – weather and breaking news – and the internet has been taking over such fields as evaluating local restaurants and other businesses.

Even more troubling for newspapers is the demographic breakdown of the responders. Newspapers fare far better with the 40 and up age bracket than the under 40s. For those over 40, the internet is one of the two primary resources for only 2 of 16 categories, but for those under 40, it is a leader in 15 of 16. There is an obvious trend here. Meanwhile other resources with a younger bent, though still small, are starting to make significant headway. Social media and smart phone apps are a couple of such newer sources.

Interestingly, the Pew report indicates that the websites of what they call “legacy media,” newspapers and television, are not major factors. Indeed, their numbers in this poll include the contributions of their websites, but those numbers are only in the single digits. This could be very troubling to newspapers that hope to survive by shifting their presentation from printed paper to online sites. The public may not follow them. Topics of either great interest, or significant niche appeal, may fall to topic-specific websites. You can go to a site that promotes restaurant reviews, weather forecasts, items for sale (what used to be the highly profitable classified section of newspapers has become Craigslist), and real estate listings, leaving newspapers to pay reporters to provide news about zoning ordinances. This is not a prescription for success. This is the reason for the Sears analogy – focused internet sites on a particular, popular topic may provide more information on that field, leaving newspapers a second-rate source on virtually everything with a significant following.

Perhaps of greatest concern was the way people responded to the question of what impact would it have on their ability to keep up with local news and information if their community newspaper disappeared. Fully 69% of the population said it would have no or only a minor impact on them (no – 39%; minor 30%). For young adults (18-29), that figure rises to 75%. Newspapers will have a harder time surviving if they do not fill a compelling need.

A disconcerting feature of this report is that the declining news source - newspapers – is a leader in more “hard” news categories, such as government, zoning, politics and schools. Those types of media, such as the internet, that are still growing lead in weather, restaurants, traffic reports and “lighter” fare. Meanwhile, less reliable internet sources, such as social media, compete for what was “harder” fare. There is much concern about the quality of education provided today. The shift in interest away from hard, verifiable news may be a symptom of this. Unfortunately, if sources of “hard” news dry up, it will no longer be available to coming generations even if they do develop an interest.

We could see more “cable-ification” of American news. Cable television once brought us a burst of information, including 24-hour news sources. However, in time, it appears that a lower common denominator rules, and cable “news” stations now pack their hours with opinionated talking heads, rather than real news. It's cheaper to produce, and we eat it up anyway. It's more entertaining. News radio has mostly been replaced by angry, shouting voices who care nothing about honest news, while cable television “hard” news is mostly limited to daytime hours. The voice least affected by these changes – newspapers – is becoming of less relevance and may one day disappear altogether. This cannot be good news.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions