Internet Kills The Newspaper

It is important to remember that newspapers did not create humanity’s curiosity about the happenings of the world—that curiosity created newspapers. How would Hemingway’s reporting of the Spanish Civil war been different if he had a Youtube and Twitter?


Death of a Newspaper

“The most useful bit of the media is disappearing,” lamented the Economist seven years ago in their article “Who Killed The Newspaper?” They pointed out the obvious—the same technology that is bringing you these words—the Internet, something we love—is killing another thing we love—newspapers.

The Washington Post’s Patricia Sullivan wrote that “readers are abandoning print” and that industry insiders are “congenitally nervous.” When Reuters quietly defunded a multi-million initiative aimed at updating its service to the 21st century, everyone took the hint—the 21st century is no place for a newspaper or newspaper journalists.

The entire US Newspaper industry is now smaller than Google. The Guardian, along with other papers, have recently sustained $ millions in losses by pursuing profits in syndications and other holdings. Philip Meyer, author of “The Vanishing Newspaper” predicts that by 2043 newspapers will be gone. The future is a time when kids will turn over newspapers like that baffled baby on YouTube trying to use a magazine like an iPad. When that baby grows up, newspapers die.

But it may not be as dire as people are predicting it will be. To Oldsters “new” and “bad” are often equated. Calling newspapers “the most useful bit of media” forgets that “media” is merely the means by which information moves. Planes may have replaced trains, but travel is not dead. Now we fly through the sky and it is awesome.

What does the loss of newspapers mean for journalists?

Ask anyone getting a master’s degree in journalism after a few beers what their outlook for getting a newspaper job is, and be prepared for a gloomy heart-to-heart. The Australian reported last year that the total level of entry jobs in journalism in their country in 2012 was in the “low hundreds.” Any newspapers that stick around will be funded by nostalgia. The numbers of classically trained journalists moving from the classroom to the newsroom will dive.

What does the loss of newspapers mean for politics?

For political strategists, the newspapers cannot be gone soon enough. Internet advertising is the best thing to ever happen to targeting specific demographics—exactly how campaigns try to reach people. The candidates who can better manage the Internet will be able to better sell their candidacy. Talking heads and typing hands fear that when these candidates take office they will be unfettered from the accountability that a fifth estate of a free press provides a country’s people.

Watergate and Vietnam are two iconic examples when newspaper journalism was a indispensable pillar of civil society. At their best newspapers serve to preserve free speech and hold leaders accountable. But with the big players of journalism not even able to afford new uniforms, will journalistic excellence exit with the paper?

Probably Not.

The traditional newsrooms that have operated under roughly the same structure for the last two hundred years will leave a void that will be filled by a new face. Journalist outfits in the future will have smaller budgets and rely more on partnerships for international coverage. More people get their information from blogs and social media than ever before.

More news will come form the trenches than ever before and the source will be the people who live in those trenches. The Internet gives professional journalists not just a powerful tool—it makes journalists out of everyone who can think and communicate. Think CNN’s iReport and the premise behind it. How would Hemingway’s reporting of the Spanish Civil war been different if he had Youtube and Twitter?

News is going to be filtered by who people know and are connected to on social media platforms. Between the memes of that motivating baby with his fist raised proudly in the air and the droning conversation about Syria, is the news that your cousin is getting married. And if you click here, you will allegedly win an iPad.

That comment sections are replacing editorial means that there is going to be a lot of anger and more hurt feelings simultaneous with reading the news, a lot more questioning of an opponent’s sexuality, and tons of just plain old nasty troll talk. Studies have shown that negative comments can sway readers from a balanced position to a polarized one. But the way I see social media is that it is a new level of engagement and outlet that people didn’t have before. The audience has joined the show, and is it any wonder that the cast is nervous?

We Demand Answers, But All We Really Have Now Is Questions

The full implication of the loss of newspapers on civil society have yet to fully emerge. There are a lot of questions. One asked by Carnegie Co. is if the journalism outfits of today are, “up to the task of sustaining the informed citizenry on which democracy depends?”

No one cried when CDs replaced tapes. But losing our newspapers is stirring something deep. Despite the worried chatter most writers on the topic seem to agree that good-ish journalism will stick around. Every newly connected laptop is a potential subscriber, and pay for content models being implemented by outfits like The New York Times and The Washington Post have potential.

The anxieties in the newspaper industry are most felt by those on the inside whose careers are at stake. Are figures like Hemingway, the novelist/newspaper war correspondence going to have the sort of climate to work in to become the symbols they did?

We are losing newspapers, but what is taking them away is also giving us a lot. The same Internet that is stopping the presses is also delivering us podcasts. It is allowing us to select what world events we track and how information is delivered to us. It is important to remember that newspapers did not create humanity’s curiosity about the happenings of the world—that curiosity created newspapers. The traits that make for good writers, the desire that leads people into careers in journalism, are not disappearing.

Had Hemingway been born today, it’s unlikely he would have gone into telemarketing. Likely, he’d be a Twitter, Instagram and blogging boss. Newspapers in the 20th century, like most industry, became owned by corporations or corporations themselves. Today technology is correcting this. We are losing our juggernauts, but gaining a new shiny fleet that might just turn out to serve us better than media that doesn’t go soggy with spilled coffee. In this Brave New World of media, I can’t help but feel bad that its people like Tyler Oakley making some of the ad dollars instead of Rupert Murdoch.
OMG, I CANNOT Stop Crying! Why we are so sad to see our newspapers go?

The conversations in newspapers are clean. Everything is laid out in a predicable order. On one side of the opinion section are the naysayers, balanced out evenly by the yay-sayers. By comparison, the Internet is a muddled pool of disjointed conversations of different dedications to truth. Seems like everyone is talking and nobody listening. All bloggers, no blog readers. People today answer the question question “what is going on in the world?” by checking out what is going on in their world—scrolling Facebook feeds, tweets and whatever else the kids are into today. What is becoming obvious, is that rote learning is becoming less and less important in the face of teaching students how to think and analyze the world of information living in their pockets. Because the times, they are, achangin’.

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