Michigan papers have changed in many ways since the state’s first paper was sold on the streets of Detroit. After two hundred years of service, Michigan’s newspapers face many contemporary challenges, from declining circulation to the internet. Although contemporary writers sometimes predict the death of newspapers, when considering such predictions it might be well to remember the comments made in 1942 by a now anonymous newspaper publisher:
I have never known the press to be out of trouble. The newspapers once were going to hell because of billboards, once because of magazines, once because of the automobile, once because of radio, once because of NRA, once because of social security . . . always going to pot because of something or other. Now they’re going to pieces because of a war . . . but once again the newspapers are developing a fighting mood. We are going to see changes; in management methods, in advertising approach and appeal, in circulation work, and [in] many other ways.
But changes implemented during the Second World War led to the survival of newspapers.
Today much of the newspaper industry again faces hard times.. In many ways today’s newspapers have returned to the entrepreneurial roots of the nineteenth century, with owners and editors needing both a sense of what the public wanted to read and a savvy business sense. But after two hundred years of continual adaption and change to meet uncounted challenges, it seems likely that today’s newspapers will yet again survive, but change. Alexis De Tocqueville had it right – Americans cannot do without their newspapers.