Today, the Baltimore Sun published an article on statutory ground rents, a form of real estate interest little-known outside of the Baltimore area. The thrust of the article was that, as real estate prices in Baltimore City have risen, there has been a dramatic increase in homeowners being ejected from their property due to delinquencies in their payment of ground rents.
I am not certain that the situation is as much of a public policy problem as the article contends. However, the article sheds some light on the continued need for and vitality of newspapers. It also shows how newspapers can produce an important product in the age of cyber information.
As to the first point, the article online omits a sidebar that was presented in the print version of the paper. That sidebar gave some background on the manner as to how the article was prepared. It is obvious that the Sun put substantial resources into the piece. I would ask anyone who contends that blogs could displace newspapers as a primary source of news whether any blog could muster the resources necessary to research and write a similar article.
As to the second point, it is of some interest that the article was designed with web-multimedia in mind. In addition to the text that appeared in the print version, on the web there are two video presentations and two audio presentations. It appears that the Sun understands that it can't limit itself to producing a print product.
Finally, it is worthy of some note that the subject of article is inherently local. At one time, the Sun was truly a national newspaper. That is no longer the case because it can't compete with WaPo, the NYT, the WSJ, the LAT, etc. However, there is still important work to do locally and it's comforting to see that the Sun remains committed to covering local stories in a serious way. Of course, it remains an open question as to whether papers such as the Sun can make money with this more narrow focus.