Image by Thomas Hawk via FlickrI don't agree with him completely, since I think for some people -- and not only the rich and powerful -- newspapers provided a sense of local identity, if it was only Herb Caen nattering on about cool grey fog and local drink menus. Let us not deride the great middle class and its wish to know, to belong, to understand. To some degree, newspapers focus our interest on things local and do create some commonalities.
To which I imagine Kos might say bullcrap, because he does say:
That "sense of community" thing? It never existed. Newspapers have always served the wealthiest members of their communities -- the people that will buy the stuff that advertisers were peddling. So ethnic communities have always been underserved. In San Francisco, Asians make up over a third of the population -- the largest single ethnic group in the city -- yet the San Francisco Chronicle doesn't have a single Asian columnist in its stable. Do you think the Asian community sees the Chronicle as a member of its community? Of course not. And given they were traditionally a relatively poor immigrant community, the Chron had little interest in engaging that part of the city.
All around the country, you see the major metro dailies completely ignore entire chunks of their cities. Why do you think the New York Times writes story after story after story talking about those poor unemployed Wall Street types no longer able to buy caviar or $800 doll houses for their daughters?
The reason alternate media has taken off was because the traditional media didn't deliver a product people wanted. If people felt a "sense of community" from their newspaper, perhaps they may have stuck with the product. But they don't, hence it's easy to toss it aside for the countless alternatives at the public's disposal.