Back to the future

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

Spent the weekend in Berkeley at a conference for alternative newsweeklies.

Please allow me to once again say stuff that irritates experts and makes me look like an antediluvian Luddite. I wrote a cover story on this topic a year ago in which I said that only those newspapers that try to compete with the internet by decreasing the quality of their newsprint product will die. I also said that if newspapers want to stay alive, they have to quit giving away their content.

I don’t have to look far to see other publications killing their own quality to move resources to the web, where there is very little advertising, content or subscription money for doing real journalism.

Well, I was saddened to see certain alternative newsweeklies drinking the internet hemlock. I could see old school journalists struggling to grasp how Twitter is “the greatest advance in journalism since the cell phone.” You want to know why they couldn’t grasp this? Because it’s baloney. Humanity has always heard “news” through gossip before it appeared in print. The newspaper is supposed to listen to all the gossip and then tell us what’s true through investigation and fact checking.

I listened to journalists discuss what information to publish from a police scanner or uploaded photographs of dubious provenance regarding a school shooting without ever mentioning talking to human beings. What happened to being a member of the community so you know who to call when you need information?

I love this new world of hard copy journalism where there are actually lives and fortunes at risk. I like that those old establishment newspapers are fighting for their lives—the way they tried to kill us alt papers for all those years. But some of those old gray ladies are cowering in gutters asking for mercy rather than fighting with tooth and nail. And the young sometimes eat the old and infirm.