Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The merits of print journalism shouldn’t be overlooked

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(Collegian file photo)

The news this past week that the Daily Collegian would be downsizing their print production from four days a week to two days a week represents an inevitable change that for many, was seen as long overdue. Citing financial concerns, the change came across as more practical than anything else. And yet, as someone who has always been a big supporter of newspapers in their physical form, I can’t help but see this decision as sad and unfortunate.

As of last spring, of the 183,000 journalists in the U.S. newspaper industry, less than 18 percent were print journalists who wrote for their publications daily. The Collegian hasn’t been the only outlet to lose its share of advertising revenue. As reported in the Atlantic last November, “Between 2000 and 2015, print newspaper advertising revenue fell from about $60 billion to about $20 billion, wiping out the gains of the previous 50 years.” It is becoming more and more the case that print journalism has taken a backseat to the rise of the 24-hour news cycle. But with this remarkable change comes critical consequences worth acknowledging.

Before I proceed, the perks of 21st century journalism need to be acknowledged. Getting alerts sent to your phone as news is breaking and developing is an ability that couldn’t be imagined 30 years ago. This level of access and the ability to share information is unprecedented, and few can denounce the positive impacts the information age has on the public. But with all of this comes the loss of journalism in the tangible. Perhaps this point of mine is purely anecdotal, but there is something to be said for holding a paper, and not having to be distracted by five ads on a website where four of them are trying to encourage a future subscription. It’s not that the days of the printing press should be times we should beckon back to, but that we should still acknowledge the important role print journalism plays in our society.

I can’t read more than two or three articles online without my eyes hurting. Perhaps this comes down to personal preference, but I don’t believe that staring at screens should be the primary way that humans process information. I think it contributes to higher rates of distraction, impatience, and an addiction to instant gratification that permeates our culture on a systemic level.

Many have cited the environmental impact that newspaper production has on the environment, believing electronic newsgathering to be a more environmentally conscious alternative. But the emissions from greenhouse gases that come from computer usage are no better alternative. Trees are resources that, in the case of newspapers, have been a reliable and renewable medium. Indeed, according to Greenbiz.com, “there is growing recognition that digital media technology uses significant amounts of energy from coal-fired power plants making a significant contribution to global warming.” There is a sense that if the medium isn’t tangible, than it isn’t as harmful in its impact on the planet. But this isn’t true. There are reasons to go digital, but citing the impact on the environment isn’t one of them. Still, it’s important to note that this was not a factor in the Collegian’s decision.

Perhaps my passion for print journalism is more sentimental than anything else. Reading the newspaper was something I looked forward to every morning in high school. Going downstairs and getting The New York Times before taking the subway to school. The Collegian’s advertising struggles largely fueled this decision, and although the move to digital isn’t immediate, it will be hard to alter my routine to two papers a week instead of the regular four. Perhaps the silver lining in all of this is the motivation it will give to journalists to produce better work regardless of the platform. For the entirety of my college experience, the Collegian has held me to the highest of standards. While I find the decision disappointing, I look forward to the next semester in the hopes that the printed papers are still our best.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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