Slate ran an article asking, “Who’s Better Informed, Newspaper Readers or Web Surfers?” The article essentially posed the same question we have been hearing for several years now. It’s been formatted and phrased a plethora of ways, but, in my opinion, it all comes down to this: What’s going to happen to America when newspapers no longer publish?
I think the fundamental unrest behind the issue of “to print of not to print” is an uncertainty of what our great nation would look like without the physical presence of a watchdog on the street corners, in grocery stores, on kitchen tables and in our hands. And deeper than that, is the end of printing only a mere shadow of things to come? And even deeper, is it the end of major news corporations themselves? The end of news consumption? The end of holding the government accountable? The end of democracy?
Today, you can’t walk down a busy street or peek at coworkers’ computer monitors, or ride on a subway very long, without noticing that people still consume news. Slate says readers “demonstrate that every day by going to newspaper Web sites,” which I believe is true. The question is, will newspaper publishers monetize the Web sufficiently to cover costs of “real” reporters? Or will newspapers someday become a giant twitter feed of citizen journalists and bloggers in cafe tweeting the news? I sincerely hope our country never sees this day, for when it does, it won’t be long until the demise of our great democracy.
I think newspapers can overcome the difficulties many of them are facing today, even though no one knows quite how that will happen. Paper is more than on its way out…it’s currently being shoved across the threshhold, and the next step is to slam the door. That doesn’t mean some papers won’t continue to publish print editions, but the national distribution of hard copy newspapers we have seen will drastically change to meet a selective audience willing to pay for the premium of holding the ink-filled pages in their hands.
I, for one, am not among them. I am perfectly content to surf the Web for news. I click on CNN daily, and usually add in BBC, NY Times, Fox News, sometimes a local paper, and The Kansan to my daily digest. And while I recognize that others will only read the sports section, or a single organization’s paper, and thus hear selectively reported news based on their interests, this has always been, and will continue to be, true– regardless of print or no print. Anyone who has worked on a newspaper knows it. Readers pick up your hard work to fill out the Sudoku or Crossword puzzle, not to read my investigative piece on where Senate is spending fees.
For the sake of America, I hope I am right when I say I don’t think the fallout will be as bad as some people claim. Some corporations will continue to print, at least for the foreseeable future. And if and when they stop, most of the world will be on to the next phenomenon of digital newspapers (haha), and the Kindle and the iPhone will be so revamped and further developed we will barely recognize them. The next technology will prevail and this whole print debacle will seem as outdated as the hubub surrounding Y2K and the fear that our entire world would collapse (can you believe that was only a mere decade ago?).