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A duty to read the newspaper?

Posted at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2007 by Melanie Sommer

There's a pretty interesting online discussion occurring on the Poynter Institute's Web site about the future of newspapers. (Poynter is a school for journalists, based in St. Petersberg, Fla.) Columnist Roy Peter Clark has thrown down a gauntlet of sorts to other journalists, saying they have a duty to read the newspaper -- the paper version.

"And here's why: There is one overriding question about the future of journalism that no one can yet answer: How will we pay for it? Who will pay for good reporters and editors? Who will pay to station them in statehouses, or send them to cover wars and disasters? Who will finance important investigations in support of the public's health and safety?

Until we create some new business models in support of the journalism profession, we've got to support what we have, even as we create and perfect online versions that may one day attract the advertising dollars and other revenues we need to do what we do well."

Some of the many folks who commented on this column agreed with him, but many others echoed this sentiment:

"Yes, and we have an obligation to buy horse buggies until we can figure out what to do with all those poor little horses. And um, we have an opportunity to buy typewriters until people at those factories retire. And um we have an opportunity to smoke cigarettes until the plantations in Virginia have been turned into Wal-Marts!

DO NOT confuse the duty to be an informed citizen with a duty to support a dead business model."