From Publishers Weekly
If you have ever loved a newspaper, this book will provide a gut-churning mix of joy and nostalgia, amazement and disgust, and no small sense of fatalism. Award-winning Chicago Tribune reporter Madigan collects a powerful array of commentary from journalists and observers, who enumerate the varied forces driving the decline of newspaper readership: the internet, the consolidation of department stores (and their advertising), metro sprawl, decades of job-cutting and the demise of family ownership; the idea that chain papers have "slowly carved out the soul of local papers" is repeated throughout. Highlights include a look at the changing face of the New York Times and painful stories of once-great papers like the Philadelphia Enquirer and the LA Times gutted by suits who see themselves "in conflict with sanctimonious and unrealistic idealists." The editor of Idaho Falls' Post Register contributes a singular, but too brief, ray of hope in his consideration of small-town dailies (around 1,420 of them) where, under the ownership of smaller companies, honest journalism thrives and profit margins can run in excess of 20 percent. The most daunting questions come from David T.Z. Mindich's examination of the uninformed citizenry: "making sure young people see themselves as citizens should be the priority of every news executive in the country." Though it may be too late to reverse the trends examined here, this anthology will inspire a healthy measure of resistance.
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In case anyone's still wondering whether American newspapers as we know them are on the road to extinction, the answer, implicit in the title of this wistful and rather dolorous new collection of essays edited by recently retired Chicago Tribune newsman Madigan, is yes. The question remains why. Madigan and his contributors grapple gamely with the problem, but the root causes they identify are mostly the usual suspects: the flight of readers (especially the young) to television and the Internet, falling ad revenue and circulation, and the misplaced belief of the blogosphere that it can replace the mainstream media it spends so much time simultaneously ridiculing and stealing from. In a few cases, the culprits are more novel. In his elegantly curmudgeonly essay Trapped in Transition, for example, Joseph Epstein blames newspapers' fall on their being too philistine as chroniclers of the arts (a charge they clearly deserve), too liberal (a canard best left to talk radio), and too adversarial (huh?). Nance, Kevin