Charles Eisendrath is director of the Knight-Wallace Fellows at the
University of Michigan. Formerly he was a bureau chief for Time Magazine.
Any journalist will tell you that newspapers were the soul of their profession.
“Were,” because all but a few were taken over by people who mistook a soul for a profit margin. Historically, their central value was imparting a sense of community to constituents, surely a central tenet of democratic societies. Which is why their loss—even as many continue as empty apparitions of the walking dead—is to be mourned.
But only in passing, like the sailing ship.
All around us, new vessels serving the same function are being launched online. They are faster, carry more freight and may develop grace, stability, even majesty. But none yet have rescued the values of decency and good governance, as newspapers did with some regularity.
When that happens, the values of “newspapering” will truly have been reborn.