The death of newspapers and why online journalism has made it worse

USA Today had an interesting statistic worth noting: that as of 2017 177,000 people work in the newspaper industry in the United States. In 1990, it was 458,000 people.

People have tried to rationalize this death in many ways, and most, who are ignorant of the nuances of reality, cite that online vehicles are replacing newspapers.

This is malarky for many reasons.

First, without hard copies that cannot be doctorate, erased, or edited, the record is not permanent. We have been losing information of the past because of the fleeting nature of everything being online.

When I did research for my first book, I tried to get as many hard copies of articles -- so there would be a record of what was written. It was simple and straightforward, and no altering of information. If someone told a lie -- the lies was preserved, and there could be no denying it.

You would think the research would have been easier for my upcoming book, but it was quite a bit harder -- many articles were not so easy to find because they were purged or altered. The Wayback Machine and even library databases did not bring up those articles in questions, and it took a lot of maneuvering to find the original article as it was originally published.

So now altering the record becomes that much simpler.

But online publications do not have community roots. They do not have deep experience in creating news -- and it all shows. There is no end to shallow sophistry and snarky opinion -- which is all worthless -- but the mechanisms of gathering primary sources that are independently verified are missing. It is partisan and polarizing with no context, as its narrative makes assumptions of what is right and wrong.

Instead of fighting against opinion-ism, traditional journalism thought it had to mimic it -- and with declining resources, it seemed like a gambit that could work.

Except it's not working for online "news", either.

People want to sound informed and political, except they aren't actually informed. You hear snippets without context, and scanning a headline and then griping about it on Facebook doesn't make you smart.

It places blinders on you, and I am certain very few people have the guts to admit they were wrong once they posted their opinion on a social media feed.

We are groping around in the dark these days. Newspapers, for all their shortcomings, at least gave the most factual information of any of the four media -- more than radio, broadcasting, and yes, far more than the Internet.

Informing people is more than an art -- it requires a science behind it. Internet publications have not applied the science -- just the crass opinion. Big Data isn't science, especially as it makes huge assumptions with no proof.

Print is not some archaic media: it's durability was essential to civilization for many pragmatic reasons.

We lost that link, and now how that plays out in our understanding of the world remains to be seen.