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Are Newspapers Dead?

Walter Isaacson’s cover story about the very likely imminent death of newspapers is exactly the kind of wake-up call people need now [Feb. 16]. I have been a daily newspaper reporter for more than 14 years and have never seen such a dire situation. A world without local, daily papers and the content they provide would be a very sad, uninformed and dull place. Ken Ross, WARE, MASS.

It is telling that on the subject of the advertising-only revenue model, which Isaacson says is “completely beholden” to advertisers, he turns to the opinions of Henry Luce, who has been dead for more than 40 years. The free alternative newspapers I represent have generally written more critically of business–and sometimes their own clients–than most paid publications. There are hundreds of other examples in which the advertising-only model has produced hard-hitting journalism. The bottom line for all news media is the same regardless of model: you’d better produce content that people pay attention to, or you aren’t going to have a business. Richard Karpel, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, WASHINGTON

As a news reporter and editor for more than 50 years, I feel that newspapers can save themselves. How about concentrating on purely local news instead of trying to reflect what readers saw on cable TV the day before? Publish local school lunch menus, city-hall doings and, yes, local police and court reports. Community papers are taking off and will fill the gap as the big dailies die off. As for coverage from Baghdad and Kabul, editors can rely on the Associated Press and other news organizations with respected reporters. Gang reporting wastes time and money. Frank Real, PALMER, MASS.

What arrives on my computer screen as the New York Times may be journalism, but it ain’t a newspaper. A newspaper is what I hold in my hand as I sit back in my easy chair, coffee cup nearby, and flip back and forth, ripping out articles, snipping coupons and scissoring photos and obits for a bulging scrapbook. Handheld electronic devices that scroll text may one day make that pleasure obsolete, but they are not newspapers and will never take their place. Paul Wesel, BOSTON

Know Your Black History

Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s misrepresentation of Black History Month as “the coldest, darkest, shortest month” in 10 Questions is unconscionable [Feb. 16]. He should know it is an outgrowth of Negro History Week, founded in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson, who selected mid-February to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Black History Month remained in February out of respect for Woodson’s scholarly choice. Robert Righter Jr., ST. LOUIS, MO.

Truth and Consequences

Re “What Would Lincoln Do?”: Lincoln dedicated his life to the pursuit of economic freedom for all [Feb. 16]. But lost in the debate on the current stimulus plan is any mention of personal responsibility. That lack of responsibility on Main Street, Wall Street and Capitol Hill is what got us into this mess to begin with. Sure, we all have the right to rise, but we have forgotten that with rights come responsibilities. Jason Peirce, CALABASAS, CALIF.

The Self-Purifying Trend

Wanna Detoxify [Feb. 16]? Run five miles a day. Cheap, clean, effective. And all natural too. David Hirsch, DALLAS

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