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Revive the presses

Newspapers need to adapt to the changing world or they will die

In an age of ever expanding avenues of news consumption, the grandfather: print journalism, is slowly dying.

More or less, people no longer read newspapers. This is probably because they’ve become an archaic waste of time. Long, long ago, before you and I were born, they were the only game in town. Ever taken a history class? Journalists used to really be able to disrupt the political game from the outside. Now they’re lucky to even have someone read something they’ve written past a headline.

Is this due to our generation being a living influx of attention deficit disorder? No, your grandma is wrong – it stems from the print journalism industry’s refusal to adapt to an increasingly technology-driven world.

I am aware of the journalism community’s presence through social media outlets as well as their online capacities evident in the introduction of online newspapers, however; this is not the focus of my assertion. Nor am I saying that the newspaper medium, itself, needs to be scrapped, but rather I wish to draw attention to the reality that the style of writing news-writers employ in drafting newspapers is unpalatable and consequently obsolete.

Ever heard of Twitter? I can get the same story some journalist stayed up writing all night the minute it happens – and I don’t have to read two pages, or go through the process of obtaining and leafing through some clunky atlas-sized collage.

“But Dan!” you’re saying, “Twitter doesn’t give you the same level of depth that a newspaper does!”

That’s completely valid, and I agree wholeheartedly, but most people. Just. Don’t. Care.

Why do Wal-Mart and McDonald’s enjoy such unbridled success despite being widely recognized as offering low quality products and abysmal customer service? Because they’re so damn efficient. The majority of North America’s populace is willing to forgive qualitative shortcomings so long as the companies and products in question are reliably fast, cheap, and easy – like Twitter.

The only reason newspapers enjoyed such success for so long is because they were the fast, cheap, and easy version of the news. After all, they were distributed a solid twelve hours before the televised evening news, and radio focused on news that wasn’t necessarily as localized. But the reality is, newspapers will never be back on top in the same manner they once were.

With that said, I understand that the objection whispering from the back of your mind is that there are people who want the level of depth that traditional print journalism will always provide better than Twitter. I think you’re on to something.

What print journalism needs to do in order to survive is to stop seeking so many writers interested in news reporting, in favor of writers interested in news commentating. The simple truth is that people reading newspapers in the present day are interested primarily in their depth – something alternative news sources like Twitter lack. This needs to be capitalized on.

I don’t want to be misconstrued on this point. By no means am I advocating the removal of the news section from newspapers – they are newspapers, after all. Rather, I’m advocating the implementation and expansion of opinionated, commentary-style writing on the very issues that the news section reports. I would never wish to do away with the journalist’s mandate to provide accurate, unbiased accounts of world affairs to the public. I do, however, wish to see the newspaper resurrected.

The people who are still reading newspapers today are interested in the issues reported because they believe they should be defused in the best manner possible. Furthermore, they read news articles to gather knowledge on the events they report in an effort to deepen their understanding of them. Why do they do this? Because they believe a greater understanding of the issues will equip them with a greater capacity to reason as to how those issues should be resolved.

Taking this into consideration, it is evident that the shift to a newspaper based heavily on news commentary will play right into the hands of the current newspaper audience. The convergence of ideas that the re-envisioned newspaper will embody will stimulate its audience by injecting an interactive dimension that is lacking in the existing brick-wall-personality of the current (fact and statistic dominated) newspaper.

We’ve already explored the notion that the readers of newspapers like to think about the issues they address – that’s why they read them in the first place. Naturally then, it can be inferred that they like to discuss the issues that the articles address with other well-informed individuals. This stems from a desire to convince others that the manner in which they believe the issues should be handled in is the best way. It is through the clash of opinions that this type of discussion generates among individuals that brings truth to all involved.

What better way to stimulate this truth-bringing than by transforming the newspaper into a combination of reporting and commentating? The newspaper will serve as the epicenter and platform for the community’s thoughts. This cortex of societal commentary will percolate in the minds of its readers and resultantly keep them coming back for more. Hell, it will even transcend its pages by procuring discussion about the figures that write as opposed to merely the text at hand. “Can you believe that column Dan wrote last week? Told you he’s a crackpot.

Simply put, print journalism is bleeding out. Now is the time to revive it by pushing it to focus on the depth that its audience craves. The best way to achieve this end is by adding commentary on the reported events from well-reasoning, opinionated writers. This adaptive shift will boost newspaper sales as well as resurrect the political prominence of the newspaper as it once again becomes a platform for community critique, discussion, and change.

Dan Sherven
Contributor

Photo by Arthur Ward

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