Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Print Journalism's Tragic Demise

Here in the "digital age," it rarely is a necessity that I pick up a newspaper to get the gist of what's going on in the world; after all, the news is everywhere - on the television, on my Google homepage, even on pop radio. There are times, though, that I notice the Providence Journal on the kitchen table or by the lamp in the living room and take a peek. I have come to find, much to my dismay, that both the topics and the actual writing have been on a fairly consistent downward slope with only the occasional coherent, unbiased, well-written piece. Welcome to the descent of print journalism.

Just the other night, I read a wonderful ProJo article about the Sox-Yankees rival. Now, I'm a die-hard Sox fan, and I cannot help but be a tad biased on articles regarding the Sox, but this article was honest-to-God unbiased, researched, coherent, and written with the perfect balance of enthusiasm and technicality. The article, published on December 24, 2009, was written by Daniel Barbarisi, and I really have to hand it to him on this one. The story was about the rivalry, yes, but also the intricacies of a successful athletic franchise. He examined the pros and cons of what both teams are doing with their pitching staffs, discussing both present and future possibilities. I must admit that I was impressed by not only how balanced the information in the article was, but also how professional it sounded. I smiled to myself as I read the article, thinking that there may be a glimmer of hope for journalism after all.

Tonight, that glimmer of hope seemed to fade. In fact, I read only the first few paragraphs of another ProJo article and my heart sank. It began to sink when I read the title of the article, but as I continued to read, I could not believe I was reading the same section of the same publication that had impressed me so much just a few days prior. This article, written by Jim Donaldson published in December 28's ProJo Sports, was about another of my favorite sports teams - the New England Patriots. While the information in the article was factually correct, it was written in a way that sounded not only biased but also elementary. It made jest of the Pats' most recent opponent and was topically scattered. It talked not only about the "embarrassingly bad Jaguars," but also about the game two weeks ago, the performances of Welker and Brady, and the fan imitating Moss from the stands. It was written in a way that made me remember my middle school newspaper - chock full of quotes that didn't belong quite where they were placed, bias, and sentence fragments. The gramatical nut in me wanted to pull out a red pen and have a field day.

Despite all the evidence, I still hate to admit that print journalism is in iminent danger. Not only have newspaper sales fallen since the same articles have become available for free on the internet, but the quality of the pieces in the newspapers that, at one time, were held in high regard, has decreased to a point that may be beyond return. The men and women who pen the daily news in our local papers are no longer living up to the standards set many years ago. The worst part, though, is that I have also noticed a decline in all the things that make a written news story great outside of the printed media as well. The journals that are published only online are written again in sentence fragments and elementary English. The articles hardly give you the meat and potatoes, let alone the gravy. I must conclude from all the evidence that Americans entered not only the digital age, but the age of unintelligence. Harsh? Maybe. The truth, though, is that our standards in many areas of our culture have dropped. Someday, perhaps decades from now, the only text we read will be in text messages, with words abbreviated and often containing numbers, as our culture will have become so consumed with mass media that we will know nothing but television, radio, and internet pornography.

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