Editor’s Note: A Crisis in News

April, 2010

People tell me that I’m a lucky guy because I got out of the newspaper business a year ago. True, I have a lot more job security now than my friends at the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the two papers at which I worked for more than 22 years. I am fortunate.

But their troubles are a crisis for all of us in Hawaii, even for those people who never read a newspaper — in print or online.

I am a true believer in newspapers and in their crucial role in providing information and perspective. At times throughout American history, but especially since World War II, newspapers have given communities the information they need to prosper and combat injustice. America’s and Hawaii’s democracy have depended on newspapers. They were important advocates for statehood, and their reporting forced reforms, uncovered corruption and kept public leaders on course. Their information fed public dialogue and engaged our citizens.

Newspapers never played their part perfectly; their reporters and editors strayed at times from fairness and objective coverage; they missed stories and overplayed others. I was guilty as anyone.

But for all their faults, their decline is tragic. The national crisis of vicious partisanship is largely the result of America’s growing dependence on “news” sources that make no effort to be impartial, to gather multiple points of view or to give fair representation to people they disagree with. Yes, there is lots more information out there in the blogosphere and beyond, but the vast majority of it is unworthy of a democracy. TV news has fed that cacophony, not mitigated it. In fact, it is no coincidence that the decline of newspapers has been matched by a decline in the civil discourse that is the food and water of a free society.

I pray that many newspapers successfully transition into the digital age and that new news sources, such as Pierre Omidyar’s startup Peer News, can help fill the looming gap of impartial reporting and analysis.

In the meantime, Hawaii Business will continue to do its part. We’ll report and offer perspectives on major issues, like this month’s story on Hawaii’s energy future. We’ll keep providing useful information to businesses, such as our Best Places to Work coverage this month and our story on reviving Liliha. And we’ll deliver information at hawaiibusiness.com, in weekly newsletters like Managing Editor Jason Ubay’s Weekly World Views, and in other new products coming down the pipeline.

It’s our job to perpetuate the best practices of magazines and newspapers now and forever, whether we deliver that information on paper or not. We hope you stick around for the ride.

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Author:

Steve Petranik