I am rather late to the point, and it kills me to write this, but there is no need for a daily newspaper.
Deep down I know it is true.
Some will point to the continued popularity of sports coverage, perhaps the last bastion of newsroom strength. But the sports page has a basic flaw that will bury it: The late game. After a long day of writing blog posts I often struggle to stay up for west coast Brewer games. So, I go to bed.
After a night dreaming of a world where Prince Fielder takes a hometown discount and Jonathan Lucroy travels light, I awake eager to open the paper and find out the score. Only when I do, I find the paper telling me something I already know, that the game was late.
And therein lies the problem with newspapers; they tell us things we already know. Or, if you fancy the weather page, they tell us things we already know to be obsolete.
Some will point to investigative reporting. But do the infrequency of these reports demand a daily? Why can’t the Journal Sentinel start a weekly magazine dedicated to investigative reports while leaving its day-to-day news reporting online?
But just when I am ready to bury the daily I found a sliver of hope in recent flap between the Journal Sentinel and Police Chief Ed Flynn over crime statistics. Whatever Milwaukee’s real violent crime stats there is no shortage of newspaper coverage. I, like my neighbors, look forward to reading the latest in this political drama while drinking my morning coffee.
And it is drama. Perhaps it started as news, but the battle between Flynn and the Journal Sentinel has become larger than the original story. This bodes well for newspaper sales; people love drama. The great urbanist Lewis Mumford gives a framework as to why.
Mumford’s basic idea was that humans have an innate need for drama. In the past, people satisfied that need through the hunt and battle. However, food security and government required that human beings go elsewhere for their drama fix.
Enter cities. Cities have high art, sidewalk conversation, and sports. But they also have political dramas that play out on the pages of the daily newspaper. Sure, we have blogs full of political drama, but nobody saves a blog post with a dramatic headline. There is something about a printed page that makes a story feel more legitimate and exciting
The Flynn spat will run its course and the decline of the daily will continue. However, I am thankful for each little piece of drama chronicled by the Journal Sentinel that allows me to extend my morning date with the printed page one more day.