The digitalization of news

By Jillian Correira

Flickr/Brendan Lynch

John Doe is a working man living in a secluded suburb of a small town in a quiet part of Massachusetts. For years he has maintained the ritual of waking up at 6 a.m., sipping his coffee and flipping through the newspaper. Sip, read, flip. It has become his favorite part of the day, but today is slightly different. Instead of walking outside to get the newspaper, Doe sips his coffee, fires up his $1,500 laptop and visits the website of his favorite newspaper. Sip, read, click.

This pattern has become quite a familiar one to many people who have either opted to cancel their print subscriptions to various news publications in favor of digital versions, or who have been forced into the digital world because their favorite print publication has now gone Internet-only.

The announcement on Oct, 18 of Newsweek’s decision to terminate print publication of the newsweekly and remain in a digital format only, in partnership with The Daily Beast, is evidence of this broader trend in the journalism world. News outlets are scrambling to keep up with the constantly changing and ever-progressing world of technology by offering digital versions of their publications, either alongside or in replacement of their print versions. Additionally, using social media sites has become a common alternative to deliver news to the populace. Because of these technological advancements, print readership is shrinking, as is the ad revenue of news outlets. So regardless of the sentimental and historical value print newspapers hold, you can’t ignore the fact that they’re slowly being driven out by an Internet-crazed generation. And that’s OK.

Besides using them to swat flying insects, newspapers have been constantly useful for one facet: local news. Let’s go back to John Doe, and this time, Doe is 57 years old and interested specifically in his town’s news. According to Pew Research Center statistics, out of the 72 percent of Americans that said they followed their local news closely, newspapers are “by far the source they rely on for much of the local information they need.” And at age 57, Doe also falls into the category that the majority of local news enthusiasts 40 and older rely mainly on newspapers more than any other media outlet for their local news.

Here’s the problem: Doe is 57 and did not grow up under the umbrella of blossoming technology and Internet invention. But his children did, and this younger generation isn’t looking towards newspapers for their information, they’re looking on the Internet, either on their laptops or cell phones. For those who are holding out hope for the grandiose comeback of the print newspaper, it might be time to give up.

It is in every media outlet’s best interest to make the adaptation to the digital world. If they want a stronger readership, creating an online version of their publication is now a necessity. According to Pew Research Center statistics, half of Americans are now getting their news digitally, topping print newspapers and radio. One of the top priorities of media outlets is to get their content spread to as many people and places as possible; there isn’t a better way to do it than by publishing it on the World Wide Web. Not only will people in their local community see it, but people all over the world will be able to view their news – bad for newspapers, good for journalism.

Appealing to younger readers, especially the digital age babies, is a goal of almost all news outlets, and to do this, it’s important to take advantage of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to deliver news. Now this new generation is relying on social media for more than just Instagram pictures of tacos and autumn foliage; they’re getting information about the weather, politics, pop culture and anything else you can think of and they’re getting it fast. Another top priority of media outlets is timeliness and it doesn’t get timelier than a live Twitter feed of a breaking news story. Once again, bad for newspapers, good for journalism.

So the question shouldn’t be whether or not newspapers will survive this wave of intense dependence on technology, because it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t. What matters is whether or not journalism survives and as long as people demand news, there’s a market for journalism. The outlet through which news is delivered shouldn’t be debated; times are changing, just as they always have and will continue to do. This makes it important for journalism to change with them, whatever the course might be. Newspapers are not the be all and end all of news deliverance and their fade out is apparent. Our focus should now switch from grievance over the end of print publications to embracing the future of journalism in the digital age. If John Doe can do it, so can you!


Jillian Correira is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].