From the Editor

John Turner

This week's Economist has an extensive article on the future of newspapers. There's been much commentary lately to the effect that they're on their way out. The Economist doesn't agree, but it admits that newspapers will not regain the dominant position in the distribution of news they once held. And, as time passes, the online editions of newspapers will be of increasing importance, both journalistically and economically.

I would hate to see newspapers disappear. The function they serve cannot be replaced by web sites like this one. We can comment on what happens. But we need newspapers to supply us with information.  The Washington Post, for example, today has a long article about the degree to which the killing of Iraqi civilians by American soldiers is being investigated. People in my position can rely on knowledge of history to say generally that an occupying army abuses a hostile population and kills a great many of them out of pure spite. But we have no way of finding out about specific murders unless there are reporters on the ground who will tell us about them.

It would be encouraging if the American public demanded substantive information about what's happening in the world. That seems, however, not to be the case. According to the Economist, the average newspaper reader wants to know how he might get richer and what's happening locally that might entertain him in the evening.

Maintaining a flow of accurate information about public policy remains today, as it has always been, difficult. Newspapers have to be a part of the process. So, I urge all of you to support your local paper and to encourage it to supply you with solid information and intelligent analysis. I want you to read the Harvard Square Commentary, but I want you to read other sources as well.

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Harvard Square Commentary, August 28, 2006