No turning back time for newspaper dinosaurs

In the mid- to late-19th century there were over 1,000 daily newspapers in England. Information was scarce and people were as hungry then as they are now for grisly tales of murder and titillating stories from behind the doors of respectable Victorian villas. (Murders in The Times archive 1850-1899 – requires subscription to see full articles)

At the same time Madame Toussauds was doing a roaring trade, and for much the same reason papers were selling like hot-cakes. Information – be that the likeness of great figures such as 18th century naval hero Horatio Nelson reproduced in waxwork, or news of the British Army’s escapades thousands of miles from home – was scarce.

How times have changed – Madame Toussauds is a curio, a quaint anachronism in a modern world of a mass and social media-powered information age  (though it does live on with an interactive twist). Amazingly, newspapers are still phenomenally popular, though far less numerous. Often ‘papers offer the kind of insight and access the proliferation of bedroom websites can’t, and they certainly provide an alternative to the social networking that is now underpinning the growth of websites.

It may seem astonishing that it’s still worthwhile sounding this caution, but we must adjust to changing times.

Sadly some people in the newspaper industry still believe we can falsely maintain a scarcity of information to mimic the mass ignorance of the late 19th century. They think we can refuse to tell people on a Monday morning what they already knew on Saturday afternoon thanks to TV, radio, internet news sites their friends via facebook/msn… Yes, there are folk out there who believe even basic facts which are public knowledge should be supressed in deference to the power of journalists and to safeguard the dwindling, but still impressive, sales of newspapers.

The above attitude is a ludicrous stance that can only hasten the demise of newspapers by ensuring printed products and the companies which produce them become as outmoded and irrelevant as Madame Toussauds sooner rather than later.

I, for one, don’t intend to work in a museum just yet…


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