Newspapers will not go gently or quietly into that good night. Nor should they. Since the very founding of the country, newspapers have represented the right to free expression and have offered an independent view of the world. Now the lack of coin and commerce threatens to stop the presses in many of our cities.

Newspapers will not go gently or quietly into that good night. Nor should they. Since the very founding of the country, newspapers have represented the right to free expression and have offered an independent view of the world. Now the lack of coin and commerce threatens to stop the presses in many of our cities.

Even the “penny press” of yesteryear, revalued upward for inflation, might not be able to survive the information-for-free paradigm of the Internet. No one reads anymore, the common digital wisdom dictates, even though books continue to sell very well. People want headlines, not “context,” 24/7, according to Web gurus, even though people continue to click on news analysis items on newspaper Web sites.

Some people like the reporting that a dedicated staff of newspaper people tries to provide. A newspaper also competes freely with other publications, making the marketplace its peer-review audience. The newspaper mirrors the time and culture of its day and leaves a record of events, people and society.

Long has it been so. Writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, writing in 1835, came across some old newspapers and had this to say about them:

 “Here is a volume of what were once newspapers – each on a small half-sheet, yellow and time-stained, of a coarse fabric, and imprinted with a rude old type. Their aspect conveys a singular impression of antiquity, in a species of literature which we are accustomed to consider as connected only with the present moment. Ephemeral as they were intended and supposed to be, they have long outlived the printer and his whole subscription list, and have proved more durable, as to their physical existence, than most of the timber, bricks, and stone, of the town where they were issued.

“These are but the least of their triumphs. The government, the interests, the opinions-in short, all the moral circumstances that were contemporary with their publication, have passed away, and left no better record of what they were, than may be found in these frail leaves.

“Happy are the editors of newspapers! Their productions excel all others in immediate popularity, and are certain to acquire another sort of value with the lapse of time. They scatter their leaves to the wind, as the Sybil did, and posterity collects them, to be treasured up among the best materials of its wisdom. With hasty pens, they write for immortality.”

The storyteller has it right. People who like to think about things like to read about them. There is something about reading ink on paper that forces the reader to concentrate more fully and engage the mind. Turning a page and then turning back the page to re-read something is a physical, tactile event and is thus made more memorable.

Having your world in your hands means as much today as it did when Ben Franklin pulled the lever on his printing press in Philadelphia.

With hasty pens and keyboards, journalists do indeed write the first drafts of history. Long may it be so.

Peter Costa is a senior editor with GateHouse Media New England and is the author of a new book, “Outrageous CostaLiving: Still Laughing Through Life,” a collection of his recent humor columns available at amazon.com.