As print media lay dying: Carrying on

January 24, 2013

I grew up with Time. Every week, I would find it sitting around the house and either read it at my leisure. There was comfort in knowing it was right next to the daily newspaper. While, I would typically ignore the local paper, save the sports section, I always read Time thoroughly.

Now I’m in college, and hoping to graduate this semester. I haven’t read a print copy of Time since high school, outside of my riveting trips to the dentist’s office. There seemed to be little point. After all, I most likely already read the analysis of current events on the internet last week.

If I was really craving Time’s perspective, I could always just head to their website, for free, and avoid the risk of my shiny print copy getting lost in Georgetown’s archaic mail system.

All that said, when Time’s partner in crime when it comes to current events on the newsstand Newsweek came out with their final print issue this week, it was a little alarming for me. Suddenly, all of these publications that I had grown up with, from Highlights (you know you loved it) to Sports Illustrated seemed to be in imminent jeopardy.

Yet, I still believe people desire that comprehensive, well-sourced version of stories. And so, perhaps the supposed death of print media is overstated.

There are numbers to back that up: The New York Times registered a 73 percent in total average circulation for their weekday edition last year. For every newspaper that is struggling to maintain its readership, there are a couple of more that remain at status quo or are improving.

Major newspapers like The New York Times have resurged these days. Local newspapers still have relevance as well–news in a small community sense cannot really be found at a breaking news pace on television like the audiences those other national papers serve.

Internationally, newspapers are booming in certain areas. We have to keep in mind that in places like India– here internet is not the norm for the large population– newspapers do serve a vital role. Vernacular journalism readership has actually continued to increase in these areas.

But, in an all-too prevalent trend these days, there is credence to the notion that print media is on its deathbed. It has run its course in some sense, making way first for the Internet and then for other technological revolutions–be it exclusive online content, the Kindle, or the Twitter revolution.

Timeliness is the name of the game these days–breaking the story first trumps everything, even fact checking. It is the same tragic flaw in modern-day journalism that wrongly implicated Adam Lanza’s innocent brother Ryan in the Sandy Hook shootings in December. As news happens, people want it to understand it in real-time and don’t particularly mind hitting refresh on Twitter until their fingers go numb for details.

Even print journalism’s successor, the Internet, has seen its initially noble pursuit of truth hijacked by the pursuit of Internet hits. Sites like Bleacher Report and Huffington Post masquerade as news sites (Bleacher, specifically for sports) but look to gain the majority of their traffic through features like gimmicky slideshows.

Aggregation is simply cheaper than maintaining a comprehensive newsgathering operation. Take a look at the Manti Te’o situation as an example. Deadspin broke the story, doing a masterful job in exposing the hoax of Te’o’s dead girlfriend. Sure, the report got plenty of attention, but the major networks like ESPN worked Deadspin’s report out of their coverage as soon as they could.

The major outlets did a pretty poor job crediting the sports site with breaking the story to begin with. Thankfully for Deadspin, they take themselves pretty lightly too, responding to Donald Trump’s congratulatory tweet with a simple, “Go fuck yourself.”

The work these journalists do is often underappreciated, at least until we hear of tragic tales abroad. Just last week, two freelancers covering the war in Syria– Yves Debay and Mohamed Al-Massalma – were killed in the pursuit of information (largely unreported in the United States), full truth on a war that the world may have otherwise been left quite misinformed. The medium–print or digital–through which such information is conveyed is largely irrelevant.

For now, the death of print media mayerstated—but it’s real and certainly not fantastic. What we valued from valiant reporters like Debay and Al-Massalma are still alive and well. The industry is just evolving, with print as its unfortunate victim.

Hell, take this column as an example. No one is going to read it, at least in print. Well, maybe that’s just because it’s in the Voice.

Kevin Joseph
Kevin Joseph is a Contributor Editor and former Sports Editor for the The Georgetown Voice.


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