The newspaper has been taking a bad beating lately. On Twitter I get daily tweets on this and that more or less informed thinker stating that in a couple of years the US will only have 2 newspapers left or that the medium as a totality is already beyond saving. It is time to pull the plug, they say.
I understand that argument to a certain extent. Newspapers as they are now are terminally ill. They have allowed themselves to turn into public broadcasters and forgotten that they have a role and responsibility in supporting, inspiring and building a community. They´ve turned into broadcasting media when people want largely the opposite. They have by and large raised themselves above the readers and cut down the return channel.
Building a community does not mean cutting down on journalistic standards. It also does not mean becoming more entertaining or shallow. It means having greater understanding on the people you are serving. Yes, I think journalism largely is a service job. This means newspapers need to take a fresh look on the competencies needed within their staff. Delivering the requested amount of characters on time is just not enough.
Unto Hämäläinen from Helsingin Sanomat has been lately an excellent but rare example of what being a good journalist today means. Whilst writing in-depth, well researched articles for the printed paper, he has hosted a popular yet analytical blog around elections which has gathered a constituency of commentators ranging from the Prime Minister to MPs or regular citizens. This has allowed the newspaper as well its community to gain a better understanding on the various sides of politics.
I would wish that newspapers would take use of the more emotional aspect of why we pay the annual fee. We buy a membership in a community and we wish to be recognised.
I would love them to emphasise that in the era of immediate TV and online coverage, the printed papers do not compete with being fastest but being the most complete and the most reliable. They are like that professor in our family who can explain a complicated subject in a coffee table. They can paint the big picture, show links and the people behind the actions in ways that most media is unable to.
But even more importantly, they have a role in setting the discussions at work, in the families or in the parliament. They introduce subjects to their community - often ones that the community is not expecting. A good newspaper surprises you daily when you find yourself reading something that you did not know that you were interested in.
I mean just from yesterday: ´diversity of Finnish forests´ would not have never emerged to my Google search bar.
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