Print is under attack. Newspapers themselves report on the current upheaval of the American news industry, which has been flustered by new digital mediums. This is a news crisis that involves and affects all Americans.
Yet, sometimes it seems as if the audience doesn’t give a column inch about reading or even the news.
Why should news outlets, big and small, hustle to restructure and galvanize an industry to suit its audiences’ tastes or hassle to revive a dying art when fewer Americans read for pleasure than ever before?
According to the Pew Research Center, the number of adult non-readers has almost tripled since 1975.
Print is worth fighting for, as long as Americans still have a nose for — and their noses in — the news.
Despite the bleak meta-narrative currently shrouding print journalism, the national numbers are looking up. For the first time since 2003, American newspapers are experiencing a spike in circulation patterns — an overall 5 percent growth.
Print advertising is currently the largest source of news revenue, the number of companies that advertise in print has decreased in the past decade; this creates financial strains on smaller news outlets that rely heavily on ad revenue.
Disrupting the traditional news revenue model, digital media has prompted a shifting of resources, creating a syncretic revenue model. The new model signifies news’ immortal task of keeping up with the markets — lest they lose its markets’ attention and revenue. Audience revenue, especially funds to daily newspapers, serves as the industry’s second largest revenue source.
Not all news outlets can afford compatible degrees of multimedia capability. The web presence of newspapers with limited budgets lags behind readers’ expectations of the industry standard — usually at the detriment of the publication.
Large news outlets that use cutting edge reporting technology shape how readers perceive other news outlets. This non-content based standard threatens how consumers perceive other news sources — judging almost solely on aesthetics.
Truly, local and independent newspapers currently undertake the most arduous charge in the industry: remain solvent despite a national decline in interest in reading, invest in new modes of journalism, provide readers with quality writing and remain relevant through avenues of social and multimedia journalism and marketing.
The never-ending newsroom produces a demand for continual content, which, in turn, strains newspapers’ human and financial capital. Social media, mobile news applications, and news websites and blogs sustain the 24-hour news cycle.
New media has affected journalists’ career paths as well. In deciding to be journalists, writers gamble on journalism, hoping it will prove to be a viable career option worth their time investment.
Whether or not print remains the most efficient and effective platform for delivering the news is the crux of maintaining newspapers’ social relevance. The good news — all news is local. And local news, despite it being the slowest growing and the branch most affected by new digital standards, will keep print journalism alive.
Print news remains the most practical and effective avenue for broadcasting what is significant, inspiring and interesting; whether the newspaper’s form is accessed by 5-inch screens or 11-inch broadsheets, journalistic standards and quality should not be compromised.
Declines in readership that cannot be remedied through savvy marketing would signal a net loss of the nation, deconstruction to a society of selves.
If newspapers do die, we killed them, with condensed attention spans and Internet binge clicking habits. The foreboding “death of print” will not be due to digital advancement or integration, but rather, to socially rampant uninterest. American society has migrated from reading for content, curiosity, knowledge and pleasure to a state of almost mechanic consumption of rhetoric, graphics and noise.
The print process is ugly, corporeal, powerful and best experienced as it is created — hands-first.
As technology brings new digital media into the newsroom (often at the expense of resources), it injects rote efficiency and fosters a mercurial journalistic atmosphere. As print has and will, we too must continue to adapt. Our greatest challenge, as writers and readers, must remain to preserve the rhetorical imagination imperative to exceptional, innovative writing.