Newspapers Are a Thing of the Past
Are newspapers a thing of the past? Will the rise of the internet and tools such as ebook readers herald the end of this medium. Would we miss it anyway?
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People want their news faster
The Daily Show sent one of their correspondents to the New York Times recently to ask them the very question this motion proposes. It was, as you’d expect, a largely light-hearted interview but Jason Jones made one key point. “Tell me”, he said “what news in your newspaper happened today?”
Years ago news would take weeks to weave its way around the globe. Today it takes seconds. A newspaper can’t respond as quickly as the internet or television can and since old news is not much more than chip wrapper newspapers are going the way of the dodo.
Today, most people get their news via TV networks, mobile phones, computers, kindles, nooks, etc. The newspaper is obsolete. The newspaper used to be the place you could read more about a topic you heard about briefly. Now the internet allows you to read the story more in depth, view comments about it, and read the same story from many different perspectives on other sites. Once the baby boomer generation dies off, newspapers will not circulate. Online it's easier, quicker, cleaner, free, and more in-depth.
There is also an advantage to having slower news. There has been some time to digest the news, work out what the consequences are (or even see what the consequences are) so there is less need for speculation. Many people read newspapers for the opinion and analysis as much as for the news and this requires more time to formulate. The initial reaction is often wrong meaning a longer time before publication is probably a good thing.
People want news adapted to their tastes
The success of sites such as Reddit and Digg show that people want tailored news. They don’t want a big home and garden section if they’re living in a rented flat. They want the news that suits their preferences and only the internet can provide this.
The internet can pull in only the stories you want to read. What’s more it can learn your tastes too. The more you tell it what you like the more you’ll get what you like. How on earth could a newspaper possibly compete?
What a tragedy this would be if that actually happened. One of the joys of a newspaper is coming across stories you never knew you wanted to read but are gripped by. This opens up a whole new world of interest whereas if we simply give people what they like their channels will just get more and more narrow.
If we’re learning anything from the glut of choice the internet provides it’s that we need good editors to sort the wheat from the chaff, not to include only those things we like but the things we may like, or the things we should like because they are important.
newspapers are more convenient
Newspapers are cheap, easy and portable when compared to a traditional laptop. Phones are expensive to connect to the Internet with and easy to lose the signal, whilst newspapers are still the medium of choice for commuters on busy trains and buses.
Newspapers are not necessarily more convenient. Broadsheets are too big for reading in any crowded space, even tabloid's can be too big on a busy tube while an ebook reader or phone could still be used. Loosing signal is not really a problem either as the news could be downloaded off websites to be read when there is no connection to the internet.
newspapers are more versatile
A newspaper can be used to hold chips in, as a cheap umbrella, as cheap material for protecting fragile goods in the mail or to roll up and hit people when fighting to get on a crowded Tube.
none of these are likely to be taken as reasons to keep the newspaper, it is better for us to use plain paper to hold chips as we dont really want inc in our food, you can buy umbrellas and coats that are very cheap and take up very little space so can be easily transported, bubble wrap is better for protecting goods and we dont want to encourage fighting on the tube!
Newspapers wont die, they’ll adapt
It’s nonsense to suggest newspapers will die. The form they are delivered in might change but people will always want to read news and they’ll want it delivered by a trusted source. The paper form might eventually end (though there’s a lot of life in that old dog just yet), but news is a long way from shuffling off this mortal coil.
Blogs and forums, for all their great points, do not have the weight of a well-established newspaper. They doesn’t have the columnists or the credibility, they can’t put correspondents in all four corners of the globe, can’t allow reporters to spend weeks researching a story and don’t have the ability to pay photographers for that photograph worth a thousand words.
The adaption is however likely to involve moving online. Many papers already have large amounts of content avaliable online either for their subscribers or free for everyone. there is the ability to incorperate social media and opinions from everyone, newspapers could even have debatewise on their sites. However if a newspaper is entirely online is it really a newspaper? it no longer has a paper element to it requiring some kind of new name.
While blogs and forums may not have dozens of reporters around the world they are not necessarily needed. They can use 'citizen journalists' who will often be on the scene faster than any traditional media's reporters who may well be based many hundreds of miles away from the story. There is no particular reason to trust traditional newspapers. Their trustworthyness comes not from any particular qualifications but their ability to be on the spot, if the citizen journalists are more on the spot than them they should be as trustable.
One area where traditional media is still needed is as for their ability to fund investigative journalism, to hold governments to account etc. Many of the areas investigated may well not have people who are willing to be 'citizen journalists' meaning that someone else needs to step in. That has to be the newspapers, or the big news networks. They can still gain the big scoops even if not the imediate news such as air crashes where there are likely to be others there first.
Newspapers do not have a monopoly on investigative journalists; online sources like Wikileaks have already proven their ability to hold governments to account by granting public access to wide swathes of classified government information.
What do you think?