The future of newspapers: point, counterpoint
Newspapers can’t die… yet
by Ruth McFarland
Although perhaps I am showing my age, I like my daily newspapers. And as it stands currently, losing newspapers would provide a void that no other medium has yet to fill completely. Unlike other media, newspapers give me the facts, albeit a bit dated, and usually do it in an unbiased way, allowing me to render my own conclusions and opinions.
On vacation last week, my husband and I found ourselves reading 3 newspapers each morning, (the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times & the local daily newspaper), watching CNN when off the beach at mealtimes, and then perusing blogs & websites during our cocktail hour.
The newspapers triggered discussions between us on a wide variety of topics, some of which led to things we had never known about before, or about each other. (We were celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary…) We then went to the web later in the day to either settle a “debate” or expand what we had learned earlier about a particular topic.
And while I agree completely with Brian Solis’ comment: “Through social networks, blogs, and micro communities, consumers have access to information literally as it happens. Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, and other networks ARE emerging as trusted and oft referenced newsfeeds”, social media gives you “snippets” of a news story, and can in some cases, facilitate erroneous information, therefore making it extremely important to go a step further to find out what the complete facts are.
With my occupation being in “research,” I am on the web for 8 or 9 hours each day, and have become an expert (if I do say so myself), on finding facts I would otherwise never know about. And while the web certainly provides immediate access to news and information, tomorrow as I pick up a copy of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, my hope will be that as all media continues to change over time, and we move to more and better mobile news applications, we never lose sight of what journalistic excellence can do to challenge the mind, improve our intellect, and expand our horizons.
The digital divide
I question if newspapers are really dying, but rather that the industry is simply shifting. In 2008, I purchased a newspaper just twice. One was to read while on a flight; the other was to read while on vacation at the beach. Some might think that I’m a typical twenty-something that doesn’t care about current events and the world around me. I believe that the immediacy of online content allows me to be more current on the news than those that receive the newspaper on their doorstep every morning. A change is upon us, and I’m on board for the ride.
I like to be the first to know what’s happening in the world. I like instant gratification and I don’t want to wait for tomorrow’s morning delivery to stay current. As soon as I turn my alarm off each day, I glance at the morning headlines fed into my cell phone at 7am. My train ride into work is spent looking at news coverage on my G1 phone and checking up on Twitter or Facebook. When I get a moment at the office, I scan my iGoogle page to browse the current media and PR stories, as well as new updates from my favorite blogs.
As a sponge for new information, I want content before it becomes old. I receive breaking news email alerts from CNN and other national online newspapers, in addition to my Cision email alerts that notify me of coverage related to my industry, Cision and our competitors. My colleagues and friends email me links to news stories that they think I’d appreciate. Twitter helps me keep up with trending topics throughout the day. Last week, I learned about the Hudson River plane crash on Twitter before I received any breaking news email alerts. Yesterday, I sent seven links to followers on Twitter from online newspapers in New York, Chicago and London. In addition to online newspapers, I now use Twitter and other social media sites to keep me informed (and share information) throughout the day.
Some days it can be overwhelming, but honestly it beats trying to read three newspapers, entertainment and sports magazines, as well as a few trade publications at once. While there is definitely erroneous information out there on the web, I wouldn’t trade it for a second because I also get the commentary from readers who share their opinions, and offer new insight that I don’t get with the papers. Besides saving trees, I’ve become a well informed citizen. And I know what’s going on before you do. Well, at least before most of the world.
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