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Online media is replacing newspapers and TV. Is that a bad thing?

How the new online media landscape is changing the way the public gets its news.

By Dante Chinni/ Correspondent / May 13, 2011

Robertson Magazines newsstand in Los Angeles, California. This is the focus article in the May 9 weekly edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

Stephanie Diani/John Kehe photo illustration

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Washington

Call it two scenes from the new media revolution.

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Scene 1: Room 233, the TV lounge on the second floor of American University's Anderson Hall dormitory, isn't exactly state-of-the-art home theater, but you could do a lot worse. There are dining tables, upholstered chairs, and a love seat all in front of a 42-inch Toshiba flat screen – and plenty of room.

At 6:30 on a pleasant April evening, as the opening bars of network evening news music play in living rooms elsewhere, the lounge is ... empty, except for one student having an in-depth cellphone conversation about his grade-point average. The TV is black. And as the minutes pass, the conversation rolls on: proof that if you want a quiet place to talk in a modern American college dorm, there may be no better place than your nearest TV lounge at the dinner news hour.

And it's not just the TV news that is largely forgotten here. There are no discarded sections of folded newsprint on the tables, either. Students at American get free copies of The New York Times and The Washington Post, but most don't bother – or they do so for different sorts of reasons. "I like the comics [in the Post]" says Susan Stine, a junior.

Scene 2: At the same hour, two miles away at the Sunrise Senior Living center, eight residents gather around their own big flat screen in a finely appointed, oak-paneled TV lounge: They watch C-SPAN quietly and intently. It is the very definition of single-task TV-viewing. Out in front of Sunrise, a man sits quietly in one of the rocking chairs that line the face of the building, studying The Washington Post. Cars whiz by on Connecticut Avenue as he slowly thumbs through the A section.

And up in their rooms, others tune into Katie Couric or Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer or Jim Lehrer to get a summary of the day's events. "I like to watch MacNeil/Lehrer," says Rhoda Alexander, a transplanted New Yorker, who calls the PBS NewsHour by the names of its previous co-anchors. "I watch Brian Williams, too. He's from my hometown."

There has been a flurry of reports about where Katie Couric will go when she leaves the "CBS Evening News" anchor position this month: A TV talk show? Maybe back to morning TV? But aside from the media's "Where will Katie go?" speculation, there is a more poignant question: How much do people really care?

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