Saturday, June 24, 2006

The more things change...

...the more they stay the same. That's the gist of this column by Jonah Goldberg:

<>In the 19th century, newspapers played a different role from the one we think they’re “supposed” to play. Newspapers contributed a sense of community to the boisterous new cities and towns popping up across the country. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the young American democracy thrived on competing “associations” between like-minded citizens. But because these people could never all physically meet, newspapers were essential to American democracy because “newspapers make associations, and associations make newspapers.”

<>American newspapers were never as unapologetically and uniformly partisan as European ones were (and still are), but they were still mostly creatures of specific political biases. There were Republican and Democratic newspapers, populist and communist newspapers, union and anti-union newspapers. These publications served as vehicles for partisan education and crusading personalities, in much the same way leading blogs do today.

Take another look at the most flagrantly partisan websites today: the liberal Daily Kos and its conservative doppelganger, Red State. What you see are media outlets trying to serve the same function as newspapers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They’re vehicles for political education and community organization.

This column is along the same lines as a post I've been trying to put together for some time now. I'd actually add that there are a number of newspapers out there that would benefit by borrowing from the pre-World War I model and also by having a cross-town, partisan competitor.

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