I have been reading the newspaper for as long as I knew where to get one. My mother would do our laundry at the mat and I would read the paper that was left by the door. I ran my finger along the names of the writers and dreamed of someday reading my byline there.
However, you’re not reading this from a newspaper in your hands but from a website. After surviving the recession, this first generation college student is on the campus newspaper. The very year they forgo print and go completely digital. So it’s back to WordPress. If I work hard enough, maybe I’ll get to the L.A. Times before they do the same thing.
As sales decline for print publications, the push to go digital has become a shove for newspapers across the country. The ability to turn a story over and publish in seconds has revolutionized the journalism industry, don’t get me wrong. But there are other factors to be considered besides the ability to publish quickly. This gravitation to digital has also brought limelight to fake news stories like the Pope endorsing Donald Trump which was circulated over 30 million times as reported by Stanford News. These websites serve up false reports that pull away traffic and resources from legitimate publications seeking the truth.
We need to fund news to stop fake news.
With fast comes cheap to the American consumer mind. The fact that critical thought, hard work, and human sacrifice went into the production of the publication no longer connects when it is delivered to a phone in seconds. The phones and laptops the information is streaming in on were so costly, it feels only fair at times that the features be free as well. However, this is capitalist America and we all need to pay rent somehow, even Queen Beyonce Knowles-Carter.
The public likes free and the work of the artist or cost from the company doesn’t sway their minds, as reported by the Washington Post. When Beyonce’s Lemonade dropped on the world, everyone wanted a cup. However, you could only have a taste of Lemonade if you signed up for TIDAL. They still served a whomping 1.3 million cups on TIDAL, according to Vanity Fair. The loophole J and B forgot about was that many users, like yours truly, signed up for the free month and then unsubscribed before the $9.99 dinged them. That’s the culture behind digital media. We still used Napster even though the feds could bang down the door any second.
Digital may be easier to access these days than print, but it doesn’t seem to be up to par in terms of cognitive retention. Forbes reported a study conducted by neuromarketing firm TrueImpact that found paper advertising activated the rewards system area of the brain more than digital media. The consumers in their study spent more time and attention to the print than the digital ads. The readers only skimmed through the information in the digital versions rather than spending time absorbing the text. In a study reported by The Guardian, kindle readers absorb significantly less information from the text than those who use paper mediums. The study tested subjects on their ability to recall events in the order they happened.
A newspaper’s purpose is to inform the public on issues. If they are not able to properly recall the events we are reporting then we end up in a really bad game of telephone. Information is remembered incorrectly or out of sequence, the message is misconstrued, the news is repeated to neighbors and so on and so forth. This is one of the many inner circles of Hell where fake news comes from.
So besides Hell and fake news to answer to, our health doesn’t benefit much from digital either. We don’t care much about our bodies, but let’s pretend we drink the recommended amount of water a day for a second. It has been found that long periods of blue light exposure, the light from our phones, has been linked to premature deterioration of the retina according to a study conducted by the American Optometric Association. The study suggests everyone purchase a pair of Hunter S. Thompson-esque amber lenses like these from Lenscrafters to prevent the damage. But we hardly drink water as it is let alone wear proper eyewear. The cost for the prescription plus the chore of taking care of ourselves is too high to ask of the public. .
Our medium as reporters and authors needs to be approachable for everyone, even people without phones and health insurance. Writers have a tough time as it is convincing the world that we should be paid, we don’t need any favors. Small and large publications alike are closing their doors, begging for contributions, and hiring advertising professionals to save their careers.
Newspapers are the source for most information in television news and news commentary shows like John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. When publications die off or when journalists are forced to focus on numbers instead of investigating, we lose the facts in the noise of puppies and paid-for articles about school programs you could google about.
“The truth is, a big part of the blame for this industry’s direstraits is on us and our unwillingness to pay for the work journalists do. We’ve just grown accustomed to getting our news for free. The longer you get something for free, the less willing you are wanting to pay for it,” Oliver said in a segment on journalism.
In order for journalists to do their jobs, like fighting alternative facts and defending the first amendment, they need to be funded and supported. Pierre Omidyar, eBay founder and philanthropist, has donated $100 million to investigative journalism as reported by the Washington Post. The generous donation will boost the industry for now, but we need continued support to stay afloat.
With digital, the newspaper no longer needs to be found, instead it is sent directly to my phone. My dream of a paper byline is shrinking but my opportunity to be a voice in the industry remains. A change in medium will never take that from me.