As we all know newspapers are becoming less and less popular with the new generations. People in the younger generations aren’t sitting down with their morning coffee and reading a tangible newspaper, they’re looking at their smartphones and getting constant updates from twitter and online papers. This sounds great to me, not having to wait for the weekly or daily paper to be delivered to your door, just having to reach for my phone and get immediate updates on the latest story. With this amount of convenience how can this constant connection to the news be bad?
Alexis Madrigal wrote in his article “2013: The Year ‘the Stream’ Crested,” that people are so stuck in the nowness of news that all they are consuming is shit, but they can’t tell it tastes bad. We are slowly sacrificing our taste buds so we can be constantly connected to not only the stream as Madrigal suggested, but the shit river.
Bouncing off that point a little bit, in the documentary Page One it was brought up that while newspapers are striving to be part of the constantly updating stream of information they are losing the ability to cover valuable stories. For example, the New York Times can’t follow President Obama around everywhere he goes, because they simply don’t have the money to pay for their reporter’s transportation. They are potentially missing out on an important news story that the public would want to know about, because they don’t have the funds to cover it. As a result we get fluff pieces instead of hard hitting news.
In the article ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable,’ Clay Shirky says “The problem newspapers face isn’t that they didn’t see the internet coming. They not only saw it miles off, they figured out early on that they needed a plan to deal with it, and during the early 90s they came up with not just one plan but several.” The internet, as Shirky said, was no surprise to the newspaper companies, they new it was coming, but as it was said in Page One “nobody was pessimistic enough.” Everyone saw the internet coming, but nobody thought of the impact it could have. They never thought it would affect the world at this magnitude. Newspapers need to assume that the internet will be their downfall, and find a way to make it their rebirth.
Newspapers are no strangers to struggle. At almost every point in history since newspapers began they have had to overcome adversities. The challenge that is the most relevant to our current situation was the invention of the Electromagnetic Telegraph in 1844, by Samuel F. B. Morse. The telegraph gave printers almost instant access to information, and with that access came a demand for more news and at a quicker pace. I would argue that the invention of the telegraph was really where our problems began. As Christopher Daly said in his book Covering America, the telegraph was “the annihilation of space (76),” much like the internet.
After the invention of the telegraph the newspapers of that time needed to find a way to keep their public interested in what they had to say. Newspapers were becoming more affordable for every social class, and they needed news that would attract every class. Not only did they have to change how they covered the news, because of the telegraph, they had to redefine what the word news meant. In the mid 19th century, news came to mean “any recent development that would surprise, shock, amuse, or edify thousands and thousands of people from the lower and middling walks of life (Daly, 84).”
We are facing a very similar problem to what journalists have been facing since the creation of the first newspaper. Maybe the concept of news needs to be redefined again. Maybe our generation considers buzz feed stories breaking news. Maybe people prefer current-day bloggers to paid reporters. Maybe freelance journalism is our future and the profession is done. The future, at this point, is what we let it become. We need to decide whether we’re going to be dragged down the river with the rest of the world or if we’re going to start swimming and make our own path.
Alexis Madrigal, “2013: The Year the Stream Crested”
Page One: Inside the New York Times – On Netflix