I took my daughter to the Strong National Museum of Play recently and noticed a couple of newspaper boxes like this in the exhibit for Sesame Street.
Five years ago, I wouldn’t have thought much of this. But today, with the current state of the newspaper industry, the sight of a newspaper box in a museum struck me as eerie. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was where newspaper boxes — and indeed, newspapers as we know them — were going to be. Not in our homes and in our hands, but in a museum exhibit.
My 4-year-old knows about newspapers. (How could she not when her mom used to work for one?) But it’s hard not to wonder if in the not-too-distant future children will be asking their parents what that box with the paper in it is when they tour exhibits like this. Five years ago, I don’t think it ever would have occurred to me that newspapers would be in the shape they are now. It’s not that much of a stretch to think that five years from now boxes like this will be gone for good — except for in museums.
The New York Post features a witty yet depressing piece on the fate of TV news if newspapers do, indeed, die (Thanks, Romensko, for pointing this out!).
When I was a newspaper reporter, it used to frustrate our staff that we would write something, turn on the radio and hear the exact same story word for word. The radio reporters at a couple local stations would simply read our stories on the air. (That eventually changed after vocal protests from the then-editor.) The TV reporters in our area would at least do their own stories.
While I was angry then, thinking about the possibility that some TV or radio broadcasters would be left with nothing without newspapers and would be filling the air with who-knows-what while completely missing the boat on news important to the lives of their viewers and listeners makes me even angrier.
One way or another, the news industry has to change. Newspapers have got to find a way to be vital to people’s lives and broadcasters who are troubled by this (as the longtime broadcaster in the NY Post piece was) need to demand better.