Monday, April 02, 2012

The Gray Lady in Winter

Times are tough for newspapers. Technological change has, to put it politely, undermined their traditional business model, or more harshly, cut it off at the knees.

So I commend to you today's New York Times article on the Trayvon Martin shooting. It shows what traditional print media does best, and what we'll lose if it dies without replacement.

First, there's the best description I've seen to date of the geography of the tragedy: where Zimmerman first called 911, and where Martin died, on a pedestrian walkway less than a block from safety.

There are portraits of Martin and Zimmerman that treat them both as real and individual human beings with admirable qualities.

Finally, there is dogged fact checking that attempts to quantify the height and weight of the the shooter "5-foot-9 and 170 pounds" and the victim "6-foot-1 and 150". Both have been reported otherwise elsewhere, and they matter, speaking to the key question of who might have reasonably felt threatened by who, and, if so, how reasonably.

This is what traditional print media at its best does best: sending dedicated professionals to write a detailed story covering over two broadsheet pages.

If we lose this without replacing it, it will be a crying shame and a loss to the republic.

And the story itself records a sad, tragic waste. It didn't have to happen as it did. With just a little more prudence and caution, Martin would be alive and Zimmerman living the life he had before the shooting.

No comments: