It’s a Wonderful Life: Imagine a World Where Newspapers Never Existed

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 you can learn something new from it every time you watch it. It’s no surprise that it is one of the most-anticipated holiday movies of the season.

While a good portion of the movie is downright depressing, watching protagonist George Bailey’s life crumble in the face of a crisis affecting his father’s Building & Loan business, 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?”, Clarence, the angel sent to save George from jumping off a bridge into frigid waters, says.  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. It was a source for 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 more 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 have the news – not just from our local community and the country, but from around the world – literally at our fingertips. We need only to tap an app icon on our phone screens, and the latest news is transmitted instantaneously to our devices. But, would it 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 news stories from 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, or that a snowstorm was in the weather forecast. 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 could be compromised.

Unfortunately, right now we’re being given the chance to imagine a country without newspapers. A small paper mill in Longview, WA, North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC), has petitioned the Department of Commerce to assess an exorbitant tax on uncoated groundwood paper imports from Canada which, if approved, would result in newsprint costs spiking to the point that it would very likely put many small-town, community newspapers in the U.S. out of business. As a result, many people would be stripped of the main source for their local news, left virtually in the dark about the goings-on of their communities. Not to mention all the people employed by the newspaper industry who would lose their jobs.

When newspapers aren’t around, it leaves an awful hole, doesn’t it? Without newspapers, we would all have less knowledge of our world. Remember that the next time you read the news.


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