How Do You Like Your News?
If you answered the above question, “Online,” you aren’t alone. Obviously. And people (like me) who work for a media organization (print, radio, tv, or even online) are obsessed with what it all means. A day does not go by when someone I know doesn’t start in on the fate of newspapers.
Wha’ happened? Newspapers used to be ubiquitous - almost everyone had at least one subscription. It wasn’t even an option in most households. Across ethnic, cultural, economic and geographic lines, people started their day reading. It’s not the reading that’s putting people off, book sales are up. It can’t really be that we are more busy. Men used to read a daily paper after working 12-hour days, six days a week before the war.
And, I don’t care what people say about finding news online. Sports scores, breaking news, weather, maybe - but tv has been offering that for years (that’s essentially free as well). Online is all about being your own content aggregater, which is great if you know what to search for. The thing that newspapers provide are the stories that aren’t on your list. You read a newspaper to become better informed about a broad range of subjects, many that you didn’t even know existed before you were half-way through the article. Reading a paper is simply a different activity from picking up a story here and there online.
So, what does that mean about our future? Will we all have to cart around Kindles if we want a broader outlook? Will our society become increasingly narrow-focused and less creative? How would a newspaper-less world affect innovation? Or diversity? If you never read an unexpected story about a different world, would you be more or less likely to venture out of your own community?
Considering how much “online” news (and a lot of local broadcast) is really repurposed print reporting, newspapers disappearing means less content in every news-stream. I believe (though I certainly don’t have stacks of research to back me up) that newspapers would rise again in the vacuum. It’s happened before. It’s human nature to want to know what’s going on - really know and deeply understand the world in which they live.
I heard a story today that Vivian Goodman did about the new YouTube orchestra. The musicians audition with YouTube videos, practiced together virtually and then performed (tonight actually) in Carnegie Hall. When she was talking to one of the young musicians, I was struck by the fact that he didn’t find out about the contest online. His mom read about it - in the newspaper.