I can't imagine how many times I've talked about the newspaper's role in providing "the common vocabulary for our shared civic converstaion." It's an old meme, but a sound one. It's really true that society will never be able to find solutions until we can name and describe the problems ...
Now here's a thoughtful post that makes that point even more ... well, pointedly. In talking about news as "a fundamentally shared, social experience," Steve Karp adds another dimension to that argument.
He's not arguing specifically in favor of newspapers; his contrasting examples, you might note, are all online services. To me, his telling point comes in suggesting that sites that only calculate and rank individual preferences – the proverbial Daily Me – don't seem to have the traction of those that serve communities of interest.
And there are a LOT of communities of interest, campers: a community of people interested in news from Iraq, of those who care about local theater, those who worry about downtown redevelopment. Oh yeah, and the Seahawks and the Cowboys and whatever.
We need to start thinking about much of what we do in those terms – and get our hands on some tools that let us organize and serve those communities better.