The era of the newspaper seems to be dying out. But I wonder if there is actually any real danger to the life of this industry with the onset of major news being read through an online medium. I wonder if newspapers will become extinct. Many questions arise when trying to decide whether or not the online era will replace the paper era. I ask these questions in light of a documentary that I have been following by PBS Frontline called News War. It is a 4 part series on the forces affecting news media today.
Another focus the documentary accounts is the growing disparity between our government and the press. This is also a major topic which I will make a follow-up post on as soon I can. For now lets focus on what exactly is causing newspapers to retreat and how they can remain as much a part of culture today as they have been for many years past.
First, newspapers need an audience or else they cease to exist indefinitely. The audience one would argue have been those people who want to read the news. People who want to read the news range in age from those just beginning to read to those losing their eyesight. I do not think we can accurately portray a set "class" of society to read newspapers overall. Let us rule out those who do not need, persay a newspaper to read current news. At home we use personal computers, televisions, and radios; the former of the three being the most widely accepted today. When we go to work we have our cellphones, pda’s, laptops, car radios, etc to give us live news updates by the minute. "What if I take the subway where none of those devices can receive a signal?", you ask. Well, my answer to you is to store your news on a pda, cell phone, ipod, or other mobile device with a hard drive before you leave home. At work, we now have access to a network which provides an endless stream of news via the internet and broadcasting. On the way home from work we have similar means as going to work. In our daily lives we have no NEED for a newspaper. Even on vacation there is no need for a newspaper. Increasingly the entire world is becoming networked. Now we can say that the people who NEED newspapers are the people who do not have these conveniences. That right there is a stable audience because there will always be someone who doesn’t have the means or desire to use and acquire these devices. Finally, the rest of the audience would consist of those who want to have a physical paper to read by mere preference. I know people who swear by reading pixel news and I know others who remain faithful to print news. It is similar to the contesting between cable and network news channels. There are some who are true to FOX, there are others true to CNN, there are others true to NBC, there are others true to ABC … you get the point. So there are two areas in which print news will find an audience, those who don’t embrace technology and those who just like to "read the paper".
Now that we have an audience, we can begin selling our paper. Wait! We need content for our paper. [Generally these two, audience and content, go hand-in-hand. They need each other symbiotically and you can't have one before the other.] Content. Hmm… Content entails generation, interpretation, and reproduction. Generation of the content would be the reporter, journalist, discovering what is important "news" by obtaining information from sources and observation. The next step is to interpret the information. Form it into content by giving it foundation, relevancy, and purpose. Finally the information must be reproduced in auser-friendlyfashion.
Now one question… is there any way that content would be abolished or not allowed to function? Looking at the process I do not see any method of destroying content besides allowing a dictatorshiptorestrict and regulatethe method of content. This would abolish the "free" nature of content, not necessarily content itself, implicating not only news"papers" but also news"pixels".
With a content and an audience to view it there will always be an outlet to convey news via paper medium.