Does hydra-headed social media mean the end of legacy media outlets like the New York Times and local newspapers? I recall a letter to the Birmingham News fretting that blogging “nuts” rather than professional journalists might someday influence policy. Should we care that much if newspapers and other legacy media outlets die? I don’t think so.

Many people lament the imminent death of local news coverage, arguing that its disappearance would undermine the fabric of the American republic.  Perhaps, but there are reasons for this.  First, as people become increasingly mobile, they care more about national issues and less about local ones.  We live in Birmingham, but we spend a lot of time in other places.  Second, as we become increasingly prosperous, the opportunity cost of paying attention to local issues (and reading the local newspaper) rises.  We don’t read newspapers anymore because our time is too valuable.

I used to check news websites regularly.  I also used to read and contribute to a lot of blogs myself.  Even though I try to “avoid news,” I still yield to the internet’s siren song too often. The blogosphere has universalized the Great Conversation: anyone who wants a voice can have one, and anyone interested can get real-time analysis of important events from experts.

Before the internet and the blogosphere, journalists and editors had a degree of control over who got to participate in the Great Conversation.  No longer.  Many newspaper editors have decided not to publish some of my commentaries or letters on economic issues. In the past, this effectively forestalled my entry into the conversation.  Today, others and I can post letters and columns on various blogs and websites that will at least enter them into a broad discussion.  The process of give-and-take helps me see where I am wrong and where I am right.

My friend Donald J. Boudreaux provides an interesting example.  He wages a one-man letter-writing campaign against economic ignorance, and one of the things I like about his campaign is that papers like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others cannot print something economically ignorant without Professor Boudreaux sending them a letter about it.  Even when they choose not to publish his letters, he still disseminates them through his blog at

Yes, newspapers are an important part of our social fabric. So were horses and buggies, slide rules, and mud huts at various times. Just because newspapers may vanish doesn’t mean that we will be worse off. A free society is a society characterized by creative destruction. It is just as true for media as for any other good. 

And maybe they would be in better shape if they hadn’t spent so much time, energy, and credibility fact-checking The Babylon Bee a few years ago. Just a thought.


Art Carden is Professor of Economics & Medical Properties Trust Fellow at Samford University, and he is by his own admission as Koched up as they come: he has an award named for Charles G. Koch in his office, he does a lot of work for and is affiliated with an array of Koch-related organizations, and he has applied for and received money from the Charles Koch Foundation to host on-campus events.