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WASHINGTON--My love affair with newspapers began when I was very young and has continued throughout my life. I still thrill to such names as the Ticonderoga Sentinel, which I discovered while driving through the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Bloomington (Ill.) Pantagraph, where the famous Washington Post columnist David Broder began his career, and the Wapakoneta Daily News, the Ohio hometown newspaper of astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Newspapers such as these do far more than tell you the news. They record our country's history. They reflect the culture and standards and concerns of our communities. They record the activities of our schools, churches, councils, and Kiwanis, and the births, weddings, and deaths that define the passage of generations. They carry ads for everything you could possibly need, from hardware stores to real-estate agents, from plumbers to cleaning services. Readers relate to their local papers in ways they will never relate to the Internet.
Experts say that traditional media simply cannot compete with the fast-evolving digital offerings of the Web.
In certain respects, this is true. It is the reason that many papers, sadly, have been forced out of business. But the reverse is also true: The Internet is unlikely ever to be able to compete with the public service provided by local papers and their reporters and editors, who love their communities and know every inch of their territory.
As local-paper reporters gravitate to larger papers, wire services, or broadcasting, they bring with them the disciplines of accuracy and fairness and accountability learned at the local level.
All our great journalists, from Zenger
By contrast, the Internet today increasingly resembles a Tower of Babel, with millions of self-appointed, untrained citizen-journalists writing whatever they feel like writing with few editorial checkpoints.