The Newspaper Industry: What’s Really Dying?

By Charles Giordano

(Jon S/ Daily Collegian)
(Jon S/ Daily Collegian)

Before you read any further, I understand the irony of this piece given its location is in fact in a newspaper, one that is very much alive.

Though newspaper sales are plummeting and have been, newsrooms that previously buzzed with activity have been downsized and as a result, almost completely muted.

Perhaps even more vexing, many of our nation’s most famous newspapers are being sold by their owners. This includes the New York Daily News, which in addition to being the fourth most circulated newspaper in the United States, has been up for sale since the spring of 2015.

Print newspapers dropped seven percent in weekday circulation in 2015, the worst since 2010. Simultaneously, advertising revenues fell nearly eight percent, the worst on record since 2009.

Despite all this, I feel the only real problem of the newspaper’s supposed “death” is in the question itself.

Certainly, printed word has seen better days in terms of popularity but it seems that for the most part people simply do not care to purchase physical papers any longer. But online sources for news are as viable as they have ever been.

Though 2015 was a bad year financially for the newspaper industry, this was in no part due to the internet version of most papers. While print circulation dropped nine percent, digital circulation increased two percent.

This coupled with the adaptations of prominent former “social” media apps to allow for news coverage leads me to believe that people are in fact only getting more interested in the news.

Our culture is seemingly one that finds it difficult to let go of traditions, even if all the evidence points to its irrelevance already having been met. This is certainly true in the case of newspapers.

Print newspapers are on the way out. However, it is wrong to say they are “dying,” not because the industry will be led to revitalize the press but because the things were never alive in the first place. Newspapers are paper, a substance once organic now wholly dead and made unnatural.

As a society, we often attach the word death or dying with technologies, innovations, corporations and even relationships. This is not a critique but as a means for one to ponder the peculiarity with which we as Americans greet changing circumstances.

At the outset of the internet, I doubt many assumed it would precede the rapid and reflexive shift of an industry that dominated journalism since its dawn.

But now, in the latter half of its second decade, it has. The internet has changed the way we receive, perceive, and often times regurgitate information, forcing the news industry to seek new avenues to more quickly and concisely find information and inform the public.

This is indeed a powerful avenue. Man has walked on the moon and now they have created a wormhole through which information can be created in one hemisphere and just as quickly be found and interpreted in another.

How on earth could a piece of paper that need be printed and physically distributed compete with such a grossly captivating innovation?

Is it really the feel of paper and the bold black print that some find comfortable, or is it the ability to hold onto the past in one’s hands without the ever-changing reality getting in the way?

We are slow to react in many ways to the technological innovations that are being initiated and completed in this very moment, as they’ve been for decades. This is a completely understandable phenomenon, though when it comes to newspapers, I think we should not bother with the question of their imminent demise.

News will always be relevant. Though its content is seemingly growing less factual and more opinion based, news as an institution is here to stay as long as the current society is upheld.

The question that journalists and everyday citizens alike should ask their peers is not whether or not this industry is going to “die,” but if what is being spread in its place is acceptable and truly for the good of the public.

Charlie Giordano is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]