Villing & Company

The Day the Newspaper Died: Implications of "paper"-less journalism

I’m worried. As more and more of our newspapers disappear altogether or move to digital versions only, I have started having real concerns about the impact on our society. I worry that younger generations and those to come will not experience the satisfaction of actually reading in-depth reporting. Or not be able to appreciate the power of journalistic photography and the statement that just one powerful photo can make. Or sitting down in the morning with a cup of coffee and spreading out a large magazine that offers fascinating stories just waiting to be digested.

Of course digital versions carry stories and photos. And in my job I read them all of the time. But I really don’t digest them. I scan them. And, according to a recent report on NPR, that’s what most people do. They read quickly, scan paragraphs and subheads and jump around.

Yes, I am a baby boomer, so I admit I’m a hold-it-in-my hands type of reader. I love reading newspapers, I love reading books and magazines. There’s nothing more satisfying than picking up those hard bound (or soft-bound) pages and feeling like you have a special gift in your hands that you slowly unwrap, savoring every page and are almost disappointed when you’ve finally come to the end.

I worry about the loss of in-depth reporting – especially on those topics and complicated issues that need substance and context in order to be truly understood. Will on-line newspapers have the financial motivation to invest in conscientious journalists whose tenacious coverage brings facts to light that we would probably never know without their persistence and ability to dig for the facts – objectively – because it’s so labor intensive? Worry that online versions will no longer be able to bring us the local news that lets us keep our fingers on the pulse of our neighborhoods and provides the sense of community essential to being active and involved citizens. Will we have access to the knowledge we need to question the things that should be questioned? Will we even be able to secure important news about the local organizations that make our communities run?

But most of all I worry that news being carried will no longer truly be “news.” Commentaries and blogs are becoming the norm. Engagement is now the buzz word. To be sure, engagement is and always has been important. A relevant story well presented is engaging in any medium. The problem is that many of these online “stories” are really the new and expanded version of “Letters to the Editor.” They are opinion pieces and while there is certainly a place for this kind of commentary, it, hopefully, not at the expense of credible news and feature stories. New media news outlets often have an anonymity that precludes accountability. They often lack the depth and substantiated facts that we need to make good and well thought out decisions on the issues that will impact our lives and the lives of our children.

I hope new technology will allow true journalism to continue to live on. I believe we need a strong and vital news industry. I pray my worries are unfounded.

Filed Under: general

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