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Globe Veteran's POV

Commentator Jack Thomas was a longtime journalist at the Boston Globe. He worked there in many roles: reporter, columnist, critic, and ombudsman.

Here's his response to the paper's latest buyouts.

TEXT OF COMMENTARY:

I broke what I thought was the bad news to my 13-year-old son. I'm feeling a bit sad, I said, because the Boston Globe is offering yet another buyout the third in as many years.

I worked happily in the newsroom for more than four decades until accepting a buyout three years ago. I've had a life-long love affair with newspapers with all the funny, brazen characters who work there. So my son's response hit me like a bold tabloid headline.

"Why," he wanted to know, "would anybody read a newspaper?"

"Well," I began...

"Look," he said, patiently, "You can go online, go to Google, type in a topic and you get stories from newspapers around the world — for free — and without flipping through pages."

Well, mark me down as old fashioned I like "flipping through pages."

But a lot of readers are moving to the Internet so circulation is dropping and advertising is shriveling.

The newspaper business is withering and I blame the grand titans. Until recently, they were so self satisfied with their 20 percent plus profit margins that they never had the sense of a teenager to understand the world is changing.

How is it possible that rich, smart, publishers and senior editors could have been so slow to respond to one of the biggest cultural, business and political stories of our time the rise of the Internet and the resulting fall of print journalism?

Now, publishers and executive editors send memos peppered with those irritating corporate idioms: changing patterns of media consumption, soft advertising revenue environment. Who the heck writes their stuff, anyway? You can bet it's not the ace rewriter down in the newsroom. He took a buyout in the round before this one.

When the last newspaper is printed we'll have lost one of our most ennobling institutions. We'll have sacrificed that colorful menagerie of reporters, photographers and editors who've delivered a daily kaleidoscope of the world. And in losing daily political coverage, we'll have sacrificed what's been a fundamental root of the Democratic process.

So, then, what's going to replace newspapers?

Well, we've got the Internet, of course and then there are the bloggers and, oh, yes, radio talk shows.

And so, let us pray.

Commentator Jack Thomas worked at the Boston Globe for 43 years. Today, he's a freelance writer, living in Cambridge. He's currently working on a book about humor in newsrooms.

This program aired on February 29, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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