Thoughts on the death of newspapers

A reader emails about the media. It is a very good email and raises many issues.

Dear Mr WO,

On a long drive recently, my thoughts turned to the decay of the nation’s newspapers, a topic frequently examined on this blog.

I reflected on the role of the newspaper in the life of our family.

I don’t know about you Mr WO, but the daily paper was a fixture of my upbringing. Spread across the dining table every day, read cover-to-cover by both my parents and myself from around the age of 10. Articles were often discussed, debates sparked and humour shared. The frequent harrumphs of disgust or despair at the latest political intrigues or the mechanisms of the country’s economy were a familiar soundtrack to family life.

I too was raised with a newspaper in the house every morning to be read over breakfast. The rule was Dad would get it first, then we could read it. I cancelled the newspaper in our household before our children got to the age that reading a paper over breakfast like I did was “normal”.

I stayed with close friends recently. They have two teenage daughters who have been raised in a home without a daily newspaper. Both parents are well-educated and the girls have been raised to be caring, lovely young women. But I was shocked at their naivety and ignorance of the world around them. If it doesn’t appear in Justin Bieber’s twitter feed – it simply doesn’t exist.  At their age, I had a much clearer idea of how the world worked and my place in it. I connected with the world through the media that was central to family life, I was expected to read, to reflect and to contribute.  

I’m proud to watch my 10 year old boy – not generally a keen reader – spread out the paper each morning and take in the front section with his toast and milo. But the content that he’s imbibing each day is god-awful! I often read comments on WOBH from people who have cancelled their newspaper subscriptions and wonder if I should too. Or is this throwing the proverbial out with the bath water?  I struggle to see a viable replacement for this medium. Sitting in front of the family computer cuts off the social interaction, and the choice of news websites with relevant local content is as dire as the offerings in print.

Having dinner at the table, without the television running is great for family time. Also setting cut off times for computer use…so no computers after 9pm, reading and relaxing prior to bed.

The problem with local news sites is mostly it is regurgitated rubbish from the existing print sources. There is not the discernment that we require…however, be patient as there is something coming for you that may help…just can’t say what at the moment.

What to do? What do you do? How do you provide access to media for your pod? Should we simply ‘grin & bear it’ and continue to provide the newspaper but talk long and loud about journalistic bias/shallowness/ineptitude as often as we can? Access to media has changed so quickly in my boy’s lifetime, and no doubt will change more by the time he leaves home (hopefully for the better). But in the meantime – what do parents do today, next week and next month? How do we halt the creation of a generation of spoon-fed, left-leaning socialists devoid of any true sense of irony, scepticism or perspective? Are we doing damage in providing them with the daily paper that is so lacking in merit, or does removing it cause equal damage?

Your thoughts/advice/experiences would be much appreciated.

My kids are voracious consumers of information. Whether that is from Discovery Channel, History Channel, Wikipedia, or my daughters preferred method, downloading podcasts. Of course they also read WOBH and participate in story creation and development for the blog. They see and hear how I interact with politicians and other sources and we discuss the issues. Very good discussions were held over the gay marriage issue. Both of my children are very opinionated and I’m not sure where that came from. As a child I was encouraged to voice my opinion, often to my father’s concern. Both of my children likewise are encouraged to voice their opinions and develop ideas out loud.

Other readers may share their views in the comments.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.