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2008 has been one of the most exciting and news worthy years in recent memory. There have been two national elections (one between Clinton and Obama the other between Obama and McCain). There has been an economic collapse, hurricanes, fires, celebrity sightings, international intrigues, wars, scientific discoveries, local stories of neighbors doing good, and salacious stories of corruption at the highest levels of public office. Yet for all of this, newspapers continue to lose readers.

This week the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) released data showing in a slip in daily newspaper circulation during the last six months. Daily newspaper readership fell 4.6% to 38,165,848 copies with Sunday readership seeing a similar slide of 4.6% to 43,631,646 copies. Just this week the Newark Star-Ledger announced major staff cuts and the LA Times just yesterday made public another round of layoffs in its newsroom. Click here for a rundown of the top 25 newspapers in the country.

What does all this mean for the future of news reporting?

Andrew Keen at beleives that out of work reporters and a difficult economy will result fewer Americans blogging for free.

“…how will today’s brutal economic climate change the Web 2.0 “free” economy? It will result in the rise of online media businesses that reward their contributors with cash; it will mean the success of Knol over Wikipedia, Mahalo over Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), over the, iTunes over MySpace, Hulu over YouTube Inc. , over, TechCrunch over the blogosphere, CNN’s professional journalism over CNN’s iReporter citizen-journalism… The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some “back end” revenue. “Free” doesn’t fill anyone’s belly; it doesn’t warm anyone up,” writes Keen.

He is correct to a point. Difficult economic times, for reporters and for the world at large, will result in some blogger attrition. But the impact of having more unemployed Americans typing at their laptops will increase the number of men and women blogging. This increase in participation may also give rise to a new generation of bloggers who continue to contribute once their economic fortunes improve. The global recession may, in the end, improve the level of discourse and activity online as new talent, who in the past were consumed with their full-time employment, discover the blogosphere and decide to stay.

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Victor Maldonado

Victor Maldonado