It’s a Wonderful Life: Imagine Your World if Newspapers Disappeared

You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.

One of my favorite holiday movies has to be It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s one of those films that makes you reflect on what’s truly important, and from which you can learn something new every time you watch it. It’s no surprise that it is rated as one of the best Christmas movies of all time.

While a good portion of the movie is downright depressing, watching protagonist George Bailey’s life crumble, the main message is heartwarming and inspiring: “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” says Clarence, the angel sent to save George.

This is true on so many levels and can be applied to just about any situation. Take newspapers, for instance. What would the world be like if newspapers had never been born?

For centuries, people relied on the print newspaper as their main source for news. And many, many people still do – 44 percent of the news media audience turns exclusively to print. It is a source of important information about their local community and government, as well as a source of entertainment, education and civilized debate. Before 1950, people didn’t own televisions, and it would be decades before they would own computers or smartphones.

Without newspapers, many people back then would have been without a consistent, reliable source for news. But what about today?

We literally have the news – from our local community, as well as across the country and around the world – at our fingertips. We need only tap an app icon on our phone screens, and the latest news is transmitted instantaneously to our devices. But would it even be there without newspapers?

Today, many of us get our news from social media and news aggregator websites that do not provide news themselves; they are sharing original news stories provided by newspapers. Without newspapers, they would not have news to share.

If newspapers had never been born, we wouldn’t know the score of the local football game, or that there was a string of burglaries in our neighborhood, or that the road we take to get to work is closed. We make decisions every day based on the news we receive – directly or indirectly – from newspapers.

If newspapers had never been born, we wouldn’t have the award-winning investigative and breaking news reporting that has revealed corruption and wrongdoing in public offices, and this behavior would run rampant in our governments and businesses. We would not have a way to hold those in office accountable and our entire democracy would be compromised.

When newspapers aren’t around, it leaves an awful hole, doesn’t it?

If we can imagine what the world would be like if newspapers had never been born, then we can also imagine what our world would be like if newspapers disappeared. As news publishers currently face an uneven playing field and no way to correct it, that becomes a very real possibility (unless Congress passes legislation to allow news publishers to collectively negotiate with the platforms for better business terms), and one we need to recognize and prevent before it is too late.

Without newspapers, we would all have less knowledge of our world. Remember that the next time you read the news.

Calling all newsrooms and journalists! Introducing the News Impact Project, from the News Media Alliance: To help demonstrate the positive impact local news has on communities, we’re assembling an encyclopedia of impactful stories that provides compelling evidence of the critical work your organization is doing. We would like to hear from newsrooms, editors, journalists and others at your publication, those stories you have produced that have been the most impactful to the community. To submit a story, click here.



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