The precarious present and perilous future of print journalism, especially Catholic print journalism the apostolate of the pen, as Hilaire Belloc once called it is a topic dear to our hearts. Though it is one we have devoted space to in this magazine over the past couple years including How Many Victims Will the Revolution Claim? (editorial, Nov. 2009), Not Yet Over the Hump (editorial, May 2010), The Death of the Daily Paper by Cal Samra (Mar.), The Role of Catholic Media Today by Gregory Erlandson (Mar.) we dont spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over it. Our interest isnt driven exclusively by self-interest though admittedly that element exists because we are, after all, journalists. Rather, we are concerned about the cultural consequences of the diminishing or Heaven forbid the demise of print journalism, whether it be journals of ideas like the NOR (How Many Victims Will the Revolution Claim?), the Catholic media at large (Erlandson), or secular daily newspapers (Samra). No matter the angle, the outlook is bleak.
Naturally, we arent the only ones whove taken a long look at this subject. Noteworthy among those joining us is James Fallows, whose article Learning How to Love the (Shallow, Divisive, Unreliable) New Media appeared in the April edition of The Atlantic. Fallows, a widely published author of numerous books and magazine articles, is a former Rhodes Scholar, a past editor of U.S. News & World Report, a former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, and is currently a national correspondent for The Atlantic. In other words, hes no slouch.
In 1996 Fallows published a book called Breaking the News, which, as he puts it, argued that a relentless focus on scandal, spectacle, and the game of politics was driving citizens away from public affairs and at the same time steadily eroding our public ability to assess what is happening and decide how to respond.
Now, fifteen years later, Fallows looks back wistfully at the media environment in which he wrote his book: The big, fatherly anchor figures Brokaw, Jennings, Rather were still on the evening news shows. Newspapers were mildly concerned about falling circulation rather than in an all-out panic about imminent collapse. Fox News Channel had yet to begin operations, and Craigslist had just started up. He even writes with a twinge of chagrin about his books thesis: To serve the public and to remain in operation, I argued, the news industry had to re-embrace its special role as a business that was not just about business. Journalists should commit themselves to the challenge of making what matters interesting, and resist the slide into the infotainment age. How quaint it all looks now!
You have two options:
- Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
- Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.
If you're already a subscriber log-in here.