Derided as irrelevant antiques in recent years, newspapers have made an ironic comeback. Senior Bush administration officials didn't call bloggers, after all, to complain that war critic Joseph Wilson had a wife at the CIA. Instead, the officials attempted to co-opt The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post, along with Time and NBC. An odd compliment, certainly. But even that attention is refreshing, as newspapers have grown more accustomed to neglect, most notably from Wall Street. Shares of major national newspaper chains, such as The Washington Post ( WPO) and Gannett ( GCI), are down 10% to 30% in 2005. All have lagged the broad market, as circulation and ad revenue are in freefall. On Tuesday, the largest institutional holder of Knight Ridder ( KRI) made the ultimate cry for help, telling executives via a public filing that they had failed so miserably to unlock the company's value that they should sell it immediately. How have we come to this crisis of investor confidence, and what are the prospects for this integral piece of our democracy? Consider the following perspective.