Whenever we debate the future of newspapers, inevitably someone asks, "if they go out of business, where will blogs get their stories?" That's a companion argument to "who will conduct investigative journalism"? Well, just as a wide range of journalistic enterprises are conducting investigative reporting (including online news outlets, television stations, and advocacy groups), so too will we get our news from a variety of different sources. In fact, we already do.
Out of curiosity, I decided to see where the news we discuss on this site came from the past week, from Monday, April 6, to Sunday, April 12. If we linked to a source that got its information from another site, we followed the links until we got to the original source of the reporting ("secondary" source). In other words, I wanted to categorize the original source of information for every (front page) post on the site. Here's the results of that link inventory:
Newspapers: 102 primary, 21 secondary
Blogs: 83 primary, 19 secondary
Advocacy organizations: 77 primary, 9 secondary
Television network: 69 primary, 14 secondary
Online news organizations: 54 primary, 5 secondary
Magazines and journals: 36 primary
Political trade press: 28 primary
Research/polling: 20 primary
Wikipedia: 21 primary, 8 secondary
Educational (.edu): 15 primary
Government: 14 primary, 5 secondary
Campaigns: 13 primary
Books: 6 primary
AP and other Wire: 5 secondary
Radio: 4 primary
"Online news organizations" include web-centric publications conducting original journalism, like HuffPo, and TPM. "Political trade press" are the DC-centric political newspapers: CQ, The Hill, Roll Call, and Politico.
While newspapers were the most common source of information, they accounted for just 123 out of 628 total original information sources, or just shy of 20 percent. And a huge chunk of that, up to half, came from links in the Abbreviated Pundit Roundup, which is specifically designed to track what some of the nation's top pundits are yammering about. In the unlikely and tragic event that every single newspaper went out of business today, we'd have little problem replacing them as a source of information. Even most of the pundits we're following would stick around somewhere or other. It's not as if Paul Krugman's fate is intertwined in any way with the NY Times'.
Again, this doesn't mean I'm gleefull or happy or even neutral on the sorry state of the newspaper industry and the demise of so many great newspapers. It's always sad to lose a good source of journalism. But we live in a rich media environment, easily the richest in world history, and the demise of the newspaper industry will simply shift much of the journalistic work they did to other media.
On the other hand, I will be gleeful when the AP goes out of business. I'm actually shocked at how little we depend on those jerks.