Public Comment

Decline of Daily Newspaper Is Decline of the Republic

By Leon Cyens
Thursday May 28, 2009 - 07:12:00 PM

In the old movie Three Days of the Condor Robert Redford discovers renegade CIA agents plotting a cover up of one of their crimes. Confronted in the street by the CIA agents Redford is told there is no where he can run to and there is nothing he can do about it. He is told to remain silent and pray that he does not have an accident. 

Redford points across the street. 

“See that building (brick and mortar) it is the office of the New York Times. I’m going over there right now and I am going to tell them the whole truth. If the New York Times prints it you are finished. The world will know of your plot! 


Now imagine there were no New York Times. Redford points to his computer.  

“See this laptop? I’m going to start a blog and tell the whole world the truth!” How would that play out? 

A free press has protected our liberties for over a hundred years. Today, however, too many Americans do not care about, or even seem to know about, their liberties. They care more about the freedom to watch sporting events and mindless TV programs. 

Perhaps the decline of the dailies represents another nail in the coffin of the middle-class and the Republic. 

Do not imagine that the Internet can replace the city daily. The screen on your laptop can never replace the bold headline and front page. The Internet can never replace the billboard that grabs the attention of every citizen that passes a newsstand.  

On the laptop we mark our favorites and live in a nice little secure world that causes us no discomfort. We rarely monitor web sites that we disagree with. Headlines on the other hand are like billboards that inform us of important events whether we like it or not. 

Headlines speak louder than a thousand hits on your blog because a headline cannot be deleted with stroke of a key. A headline cannot easily be ignored. To delete the headlines of a city daily you would need an army of men racing from one newsstand to another throughout the city snatching up tens of thousands of newspapers and burning them. 

(San Franciscans will remember the incident when thousands of a “give away weekly” were pulled from the news boxes across the city. It turned out to be disaster for the perpetrators.)  

The Internet can do many fine things but one thing it cannot do is create a sense of living community.  

A virtual community is not a real community. 

How would you confront someone who lies about you or endangers you or your family with false information on the Internet? A big city newspaper usually is located in a building (brick and mortar) easily found. Where is the Internet web site located? In what building do you find them? In what office are they located? 

Imagine a world where you could not face your accuser. Isn’t that the world of totalitarianism?  

The Chron must be saved. Not because the Chronicle is a great paper. But it must be saved because it is the only daily we have left. 

Despite its faults the Chronicle has published many unpopular journalists and writers over the years. Randy Shilts and Robert Scheer for example. Many years ago the Chronicle even published, and paid for, several of my op-ed’s. 

The daily paper is the only institution that can afford to maintain a core of professional journalists capable of investigating wrong doings in high places. 

The big city daily newspaper has been with us for over hundred years and has proven essential to maintain any semblance or illusion of democracy. 

If daily newspapers disappear there will be no watchdog to protect the interests of the ordinary citizen. No watchdog to investigate and expose corruption in high places. You’ll have only the watchmen! And who will watch the watchmen? 

Petition the government to subsidize the newspaper. God knows the government subsidizes the most worthless junk. Let them subsidize something of value—like the daily press.  

Let the advertisers know that if they abandon the Chronicle they are abandoning their own country. Appeal to their patriotism. Even the most shortsighted capitalist may have a drop of patriotism left in his greedy ignorant heart.  

Give a big tax break to businesses that advertise in the Chronicle.  

Do the right thing. Save the city daily. 

I love the Internet. I use the Internet. But the Internet must not be used to help destroy the daily newspapers. 

Ultimately, however, it is the citizens of a nation that decide whether or not they want a free press. If through laziness, lack of imagination, and plain old cowardice they decide entertainment is more important than a free press then they will, slowly but surely, lose their republic and their freedom.  


Leon Cyens is a San Francisco resident.