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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 11, 2009 at 9:00 AM

The decline of newspapers

Foreclosure on the fourth estate

Nothing has disturbed me more in my lifetime than the death of newspapers.

I don’t sense the public understands that democracy is unimaginable without the Fourth Estate of the press. We have become complacent as a nation not to be horrified at the loss of century-old institutions of news reporting. It becomes possible to imagine a post-democratic America without these vital institutions that, at their best, expose the corruption of the government and the marketplace and provide the public square with the information needed for renewal.

This might seem a bit extreme to some people. However, newspapers are the last bastion of investigative reporting carried out by full-time salaried journalists. Although this reporting still exists in a few TV programs and magazines, it is the exception and not the norm.

Whatever other failings newspapers have, and they have many, investigative reporting is their raison-d’etre and the critical public good they provide in safeguarding our democracy.

The Seattle Times is to be applauded for its series called “The Democracy Papers” [Opinion] that explores this alarming trend, but I would encourage it to expand this coverage into an award-winning series of investigative journalism pieces that helps to jump-start a robust exploration of how to save journalism and, by extension, our American democracy.

— Michael Godfried, Seattle

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