Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

On Sunday a group of Hampshire College students who are studying in Berlin this semester will join me for "brunch and newspapers." We will discuss the news in some of the eight German-language dailies available almost everywhere in the city, which also sports another dozen newspapers in Turkish, Russian, English and other languages. While some of these newspapers have been in financial difficulty, several have survived tight periods in the last decade and still are alive and kicking. From an American point of view, it is especially interesting that relatively few pages are taken up by advertising, although advertising supplements are common. Riding in a bus or metro, one sees lots of people reading newspapers (or books). Observing people buying them, it is clear that some people read two or three different newspapers daily. None of these newspapers are directly subsidized by the government and only a few clearly are the voices of some political party or movement. The little grocery store next door to me has a rack featuring eight different newspapers as well as an entire wall of magazines. Are the Germans just a fossil culture? Or is there something rotten in America?

Lester Mazor

Berlin, Germany

Feb 18 2009 - 3:40pm

Web Letter

If Obama can raise huge amounts via the Internet, it stands to reason that the newspapers, which I consider valuable, can do something similar. A respected realtor in my area told me, "I don't use the newspaper ads to sell a house; the multiple listings work very well." Their multiple listings are making money, siphoning off the revenues from the papers. The same holds true with job ad sites like Monster, which get their revenue from the people who scan the free résumés they put up. If the price were right, I'd consider paying for the stuff I get in the newspapers. The important point is that the newspapers actually do produce the "news," while blogs mainly like leeches get it by piggybacking on what the papers produce. But more and more papers are going downhill because they are cutting back on their primary function, which is gathering really new news.

Lawrence Light

Mission Viejo, CA

Feb 17 2009 - 1:26pm

Web Letter

I don't know that I'd use HuffPo as the model by which to predict success/failure of internet only news outlets.

Josh Marshall's TalkingPointsMemo.com does some pretty good reporting on a shoestring--but paid--budget. What would a TPM-type of endeavor be able to do with some multimillion-dollar backing? I hope we'll find out someday soon.

I can see the dailies going all electronic, maybe with a little fee to download, and with a hard-copy Sunday edition for weekend slackers and idlers, like me.

Richard Levy

Cambridge, MD

Feb 16 2009 - 6:52pm

Web Letter

It is my understanding that in the old days newspapers had not only a business section but a labor section. I might read a paper if I thought it covered the struggles and victories of workers. I might read a paper if one gave full coverage of social movements right down to the local level. I might read a paper if it really helped me become a well-informed, fully participating citizen. I go to vote and never know who all the people on the ballot are. Yes, even when voting for dog-catcher, I would like to make an informed decision. If I knew that a local paper did all those things I would read it. I am starving for bits of information that I can't seem to find anywhere. Those bits of information should be part of the news reported in newspapers and elsewhere.

John F. Butterfield

Deltona, FL

Feb 13 2009 - 5:52am