I’d like you to do something for me next week. It’s simple. It’s cheap. It could help save democracy.
Buy a newspaper.
Doesn’t matter which one. Local weekly? The Times or the Post? Whatever you like. But you have to buy it. Reading one online for free doesn’t count. Buy an actual paper. Enjoy the crinkling sensation in your hands.
Because here’s the thing. Newspapers are still the best way to stay informed—actually informed, with deeply researched information, as opposed to random people’s opinions with a fact or two maybe thrown in. Farhad Manjoo puts it more eloquently than I can in this column (though I disagree on a couple points: The ink isn’t messy, and something you can fold up and shove in a bag is way easier than a screen you have to constantly protect and keep charged. Newspapers are battery-free).
Am I biased? Of course I’m biased. I spent 20 years in newsrooms. Which also means I spent 20 years watching, firsthand, exactly how much stress and opposition and frustration reporters, photojournalists, editors, and graphic designers will trudge through to put a paper together every single night. My colleagues in North Jersey covered 9/11. One of my co-workers in Miami was thrown in jail overnight while covering a protest, because she was mistaken for a protester. A former co-worker, just last night, was in a New Jersey mall with his family when shots were fired; he got his family to safety and then reported from the scene. That’s what it means to be a journalist. That’s why I trust journalists.
There is absolutely no reason to expect anyone to do this sort of work for free. But that’s the expectation you have when you only read news online, for free.
I worry very much about journalists losing their jobs and newspapers shutting down. I worry about what a lack of clear, well-researched information could do to the country.
So please: It’s my birthday next week. Help me celebrate by buying a newspaper. Maybe you’ll like it enough to buy it again.