Here is a blog I wrote for the University Press staff blog. I am the adviser and contribute occasionally with thoughts about journalism.
The University Press staff is obviously committed to print news, but we are constantly faced with the question, “I get all I need from the internet so why should I read the newspaper?”
It’s a good question but one that is slightly misleading. The real question should be, “Why support print media?”
There is an important distinction here. The majority of people who say they get their news online are actually reading a newspaper. Check the source of the article you are reading. Sure, I know Uncle Bob sent you a link from a guy he knows from that alien autopsy Facebook group he belongs to, but if it is a credible news story it probably originated in print somewhere (sorting out the credible from the non-credible sources is for another post).
David Chavern, writing for the Huffington Post,” argues, “I find that people get very confused by the term ‘newspaper.’ I actually had a very high-ranking public official say to me recently that he ‘didn’t read newspapers anymore, [he] gets all his news online.’
“The absurdity of that statement still makes me pause. Where does he think the ‘news’ he reads online comes from? Who employs the reporters, writers and editors who do most of the actual reporting, writing and publishing? The fact of the matter is that many of us have bought into this idea that the ‘digital realm’ is so different and distinct from the physical world that we don’t understand that many organizations still play in both worlds.”
Think you get your news from Google? Wrong. Google is a content aggregator not a content generator, meaning the search engine simply compiles information from other sources. The real reporting, the generation of content, is still done by a reporter, recorder and notebook in hand, taking the time to track down a source.
Newspapers also offer a variety that is not necessarily evident through online news sources. We all tend to frequent sites that we like, but the result is often that we only see stories that we are looking for. Flipping through a newspaper allows our attention to be captured by a headline or a photo, causing us to read something that we would otherwise not have searched for.
Reading a newspaper also allows us the time to really digest the information. Farhad Manjoo, in the New York Times, writes about switching to getting his news from print only.
“I was trying to slow-jam the news — I still wanted to be informed, but was looking to formats that prized depth and accuracy over speed. … Now I am not just less anxious and less addicted to the news, I am more widely informed….”
A newspaper is also the best place to get local news, something that is often ignored in flood of articles focused on national or international affairs. During Hurricane Harvey, the major outlets covered the storm on a broad sense (and quickly switched away when the next hurricane hit Florida). But it was the local outlets that had in-depth coverage that spoke to the minutiae of day-to-day life — where to get supplies, for example.
Take a moment to really look at where you get your news. And when you find that your news comes not from some vague online source, but from an established journalist, consider getting at least an online subscription. At the very least, read the University Press on campus. It’s free.
Who knows, you might just learn something different.
Andy Coughlan is Lamar University director of student publications and University Press adviser