A year before he died, New York Times media critic David Carr wrote a column headlined “Local Newspapers Shine Light in Society’s Dark Corners.”
Carr described how the journalists at The Record, a daily newspaper in northern New Jersey, broke the story linking Gov. Chris Christie’s staff to the closing of the George Washington Bridge, a scandal known as Bridgegate.
Although national newspapers contributed coverage, “it’s hard to overstate the importance of local journalistic vigilance,” Carr wrote. “Before cable bobbleheads were debating Mr. Christie’s future and bloggers were measuring the political impact of the scandal, there was a reporter and a simple question.”
Carr’s deep respect for the practice of daily journalism was coupled with an awareness of the threats to its future. And although he embraced the digital age, Carr remained a lover of newsprint.
“I find [value in] the curation, the ordering, the creation of a hierarchy in which we preserve a certain idea that we all hold in common about what is important now,” Carr said in an interview. “ … There’s a discipline that goes with making a physical artifact that is not the same as the web but has a significant value both to me as a consumer and to the broader culture at large.”
I share the belief that good journalism can be practiced in the most humble of circumstances and that putting out a paper is worth doing. And so in the spring of 2015 I drove cross-country, hoping in a small way to create a visual record of an industry in a time of radical change.
From the Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media, 2016”
“Eight years after the Great Recession sent the U.S. newspaper industry into a tailspin, the pressures facing America’s newsrooms have intensified to nothing less than a reorganization of the industry itself, one that impacts the experiences of even those news consumers unaware of the tectonic shifts taking place,” according to the Pew Research Center.
“2015 was perhaps the worst year for newspapers since the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath. Daily circulation fell by 7% … while advertising revenue at publicly traded newspaper companies fell by 8%.
“At the same time, newsroom staffing fell by 10% in 2014. … Coming amid a wave of consolidation, this accelerating decline suggests the industry may be past its point of no return.”
“Amid these declines, print remains a vital part of newspapers’ distribution picture,” which “is especially problematic as the portion of Americans turning to print newspapers continues to decline.”
The number of daily newspapers in the U.S. has decreased by more than 100 since 2004.