In today’s information society news stories come in many formats. We live in a multi-channel world, we are told, with TV, the Internet, radio, blogs, and magazines competing to catch our attention. But for steady, day-by-day coverage of important issues and events in our city, nothing matches the newspapers. We are fortunate in having more than one paper in San Francisco, but we don’t have so many that we can afford to lose any of them. Jon Carroll, in his column in the Chronicle today, talks about how sad the atmosphere is around the Chronicle office as one reporter after another is let go. The leading paper in San Francisco is shrinking before our eyes. It’s not just individuals who will miss the newspapers. Civic organizations like the League will find it harder to get their message out to the public. Many of the electronic sources of information and opinion are heavy on opinion and offer limited and sometimes skewed information. It’s not that newspapers are perfectly objective, but at least they make an effort, and they leave a paper trail so mistakes can be seen and errors retracted. Those of us who care about public discourse had better start thinking about the channels journalists will be able to use to spread the objective and factual information citizens need to make informed decisions. The format may change, but the honorable tradition of the press and the work of journalists is needed now more than ever.
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