A Lasting First Draft

A day after Barack Obama’s historic win, I think newspapers are among the major winners in Election ’08. On Wednesday in New York City, I heard various stories about a scarcity of the day’s newspapers. Friends and colleagues were unable to find copies of the New York Times at newsstands. By midday, I heard reports of lines forming outside the NYT’s headquarters and of Times reporters who themselves couldn’t get copies of the election edition.

Perhaps it’s just human nature to hoard keepsakes about historic events. But just days after what could have been the worst week in publishing history — layoffs, restructurings and the shuttering of print editions — the run on print papers is a clear reminder of their importance. Websites had incredible graphics on the election results but the pixels forming news sites’ “front page” will quickly dissipate, leaving behind a muddled archive of the day’s events.

It took an election to remind Americans about a great democracy. Here’s hoping it taught us something about our news, as well.

Thanks to Wednesday’s newsstand run, I’m confident that newspapers will still be here in 2012 to etch the results of one more presidential election.

(Here is the Newseum’s collection of 719 front pages from Nov. 5, 2008.)

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