When Scarlett O’Hara whimpered about her humiliating comeuppance and what was Rhett Butler going to do about it, his famous reply began, “Frankly, my dear . . .”
Newspapers are beginning to whine like Scarlett near the closing of “Gone With the Wind,” and, frankly, nobody seems to be giving what Rhett didn’t give. The narcissistic Scarlett had it coming, and so do most of today’s floundering and perishing newspapers.
Newspapers aren’t dying because readers stopped reading newspapers. Readers stopped reading newspapers because newspapers are dying. Leftist television news outlets are next.
Like the unlamented South of old, newspapers’ glory days have come and gone with the wind. As they already begin dropping like rotting fruit from diseased trees, their funerals are, justly, ill attended, their memories thinly mourned.
With kindred newspapers, The New York Times will be forgotten. Uh, what times in New York? Oh, of course. Eastern Standard and Eastern Daylight.
To new generations they’ll be quaint relics, like non-electric typewriters. An aging neighbor with dimming eyesight hefted her vintage Underwood into an office-supply store for help in replacing the ribbon.
A college-age clerk asked, “What’s that?”
She replied, “My typewriter.” He’d never heard of such a thing.
When she explained how it works, he showed a brief flicker of interest: “Cool!”
If it were only The New York Times that’s following Underwoods and Royals into history’s technological trash bin it would be no great loss. But when the last hometown newspaper rolls off the press it will be not only a shame but also a dire threat to the form of government bequeathed by the Founding Fathers.
From ugly experience under British rule, those who crafted the Constitution knew that a republic, where people govern themselves, cannot endure without ready access to accurate, timely information upon which to base their decisions.
In the 222 years since that Constitution was written, it has been the newspapers that were the backbone of freedom of information — notwithstanding the emergence of masscomm technology, from radio to television to Internet.
It’s anyone’s guess whether more-modern means of communication will be able to fill that absolutely vital role in the republic.
What irony! Never in history have so many people had such economical, easy, instantaneous access to so much detailed information about so many topics. Yet, or so it seems, never have they been so out of touch with the big picture.
What was once the profession of newspaper journalism is now a joke. The culprits are those inept cretins running those newspapers — in business offices, on leftist editorial pages, and especially in newsrooms where political agendas blatantly supplant factual reporting.
They were not content with being journalists. They wanted even more to be celebrated players, part of society’s and government’s elite decision-making apparatus. They sold their journalistic birthrights for a mess of power pottage.
They failed to remember that people bought and read newspapers for news. After all, that’s where the name came from, once upon a time.
Newspapers have been busy peddling just about everything except unvarnished news. And their owners scratch their heads over why readers are fleeing from them.
There’s no joy in all this for the leftist broadcast media. They’re next on the list to go the way of newspapers. The two media have been copycatting each other. Serves them right. But it surely doesn’t serve the people of America.
The always-fragile web of synapses that has historically bound the citizenry to their republic — the freedom of press — has been rudely ruptured and shattered.
It’s enough to make grown men weep and perpetual adolescents giggle.
John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for Newsmax.com. Read John Perry's columns here.
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