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Newspapers and attention spans

**Breaking News: As of tomorrow, Friday, February 27, 2009, the Rocky Mountain News will cease to exist, making this blog entry all the more relevant.**

A recent IJN editorial commented on the importance of newspapers and the loss Denver would will suffer were when the Rocky Mountain News to shuts up shop. Rocky Mountain Jew couldn’t agree more, and apparently neither do IJN.com users.

In a poll entitled, “Do Denver and Colorado need the Rocky Mountain News“, an overwhelming majority (72.6%) of the users that participated said, “Yes”, while only 21.7% said “No”. We’re heartened to see that our readers value the written word as much as we do.

RSS feeds, blog entries, video clips et cetera are all good – but to a limit. If we don’t balance out our five-second perusal of the latest headlines with the in-depth analysis that is generally only found in tangible, hand-held publications – whether it be newspapers, journals or magazines – we’re turning our backs on obtaining a deep understanding of almost any issue.

How many times, in our personal lives, when reflecting or bemoaning past decisions, have we opened with the phrase “in hindsight”? Retrospection is a wonderful thing. Many times it’s only the day after that we fully understand the scope of an event.

A wonderfully entertaining, yet ultimately grim, book on the topic is Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur, subtitled “How the Internet is killing today’s culture”. One question Keen poses is, what happens to the quality of journalism if newspapers go out of business? In the past, newspapers have groomed and nurtured writers, invested in them, sent writer abroad to cover stories first-hand. Over time, a journalist covering a corner of the world will have developed knowledge of the area that others don’t have – even local residents. But if there’s no revenue, how do newspapers invest in writers?

The most tragic outcome of all would be if, due to our rapidly dwindling national attention span, we can longer even recognize quality reporting.

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