The Newspaper vs. the Web: Why Choose Just One?

Everybody’s in such a conciliatory mode, or maybe it’s reconciliatory. It’s good to have the newspapers. It’s good to have the Web. So why not have … both!

Speaking of reconciliation: Professor Gates, Sgt. Crowley, I still know only 400 words a day about your story(s); I know I’ll look up more as soon as this experiment is over. I am truly glad nobody got killed. Any way you two could turn this into a teachable moment for the nation? Drop all lawsuits, press conferences, union grievances, etc., and just come together to explain exactly what was running through your minds? It’s not only cops who could learn a lot from that; every citizen could. You’d probably save some lives. How about it?

For me, having been without it for three days, I appreciate the Web as much as ever for its astonishing ability to bring such a wide range of information and opinion immediately to hand. And I’m as leery as ever for its astonishing ability to clog up my life and brain with useless and ephemeral information, sort of the digital equivalent of downing a Big Mac. The trick, of course, is in the discipline of the user.

Could I live a full and happy life without newspapers, to use Seth’s construction? The answer is no. I’ve got ink in my veins.

But the question isn’t really about me—it’s about my kids. Could they live a full and happy life without newspapers? They will almost surely have to figure out how to do so, but only in the narrow sense that newsprint is headed the way of the horse, the buggy, and Windows Vista. I still believe very strongly that technology is going to bring us right back to the future, with cheap, wireless tablets, bulging with ads and content, that will look strangely like the newspaper of yore. I hope it happens soon enough for real newspapers to make the transition. I’m OK if the ink that runs through my kids’ veins is digital—just so long as the free flow of information is as powerful as ever and every generation produces enough of the editors/gatekeepers who growl: “If your mother says she loves you, kid … check it out!”