The loss of any newspaper must be lamented in the land where Thomas Jefferson said that the public opinion was so important he would rather have newspapers without a government than a government without newspapers. The loss is heightened when the victim is the second newspaper in the nation's capital, the 128-year-old Washington Star. Its announced closing for financial reasons next month will leave what it jauntily called the Morning Monolith, the redoubtable Washington Post, without a scrappy competitor -- and the public without a valuable source of diversity in news and commentary.
The decline in America's metropolitan newspapers may be offset in a way by the rise of suburban papers and the availability of other news media. But in a city, especially a political city, there is really no substitute for a lively clash of ideas and race for information that can be contemplated on the daily printed page. As the analysts go to work on why the Star failed, one thing is sure: with the disappearance of each paper that has fought the good fight, it becomes more necessary for the remaining informers of public opinion to police themselves for accuracy of facts, scope of debate, and fairness of access.