Editorial: Resisting the attack on print media

October 24, 2018

The human brain is more powerful than a computer, yet we’ve minimized our capacity to 280 characters, making us rely heavily on a watered-down version of news consumption.


As technology has evolved over time, the role of the media has also transformed. There’s no doubt that individuals consume less print news year after year, but to be fair it’s not because print journalism has died, it’s because we’re trying to kill it.


Just last week, Facebook Inc. came under fire for engaging in “unfair business conduct by disseminating inaccurate metrics that significantly overestimated the amount of time users were spending watching video ads,” according to The Wall Street Journal.


The complaint came from a group of small advertisers who filed a lawsuit in 2016 and later added a fraud claim, alleging Facebook was aware of irregularities in its video metrics by January 2015.


However, after learning about these miscalculations within a few months, the company waited to disclose the information for over a year, costing marketers a total of $77 billion in ads in 2015, according to estimates from research firm Recma.


While Facebook has since apologized for making such an “error,” the consequences have had a swelling effect on media companies and publishers determining the types of content to post.


Making such an “error” has only contributed to the myth that pivoting to video is the future of journalism.


The more dire consequences of such an “error” have fed into the idea that publications need to focus more heavily on developing the fashion in which news is delivered, rather than the content itself.


For this reason, newsrooms have downsized, cut staff, eliminated sections and expedited deadlines for the sole purpose of becoming more “multimedia friendly” but have instead corroded the quality of their newspaper, making it only valuable for lining the bottom of bird cages.


Colleges across the nation have even jumped on the bandwagon by replacing print journalism classes with more social media classes, but in a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on social media, do such skills really need to be taught in a classroom setting?


Why can’t we instead focus on developing students’ writing and reporting abilities?


Essentially, those skills are fundamental in teaching students how to question, analyze and deliver information. It is the most critical part of journalism, but it’s the first one we have eliminated from our curricula.


The mistake of eliminating the most integral part of journalism is having a rippling effect on individuals relying increasingly on 90-second long videos where information is condensed to communicate in-depth concepts that require a longer attention span.


There’s no doubt that such measures in becoming technologically advanced have only advanced the extent to which modern day news has become a mockery. The clickbait headlines and meme usage has further undermined the reputation of a field that was once respected.


By eliminating text, we’ve eliminated our ability to focus. It explains why the average attention span has dropped to eight seconds from the 12 seconds it was in 2000.


By changing how we are consuming information, we are changing the information we are consuming.


We’re using methods of instant gratification to feed a curiosity that begs for more.


Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate,” but how educated can an electorate be from digesting a watered-down version of news?


While the evolution of transforming media has the potential to deliver news at a speed not conceivable in the traditional form, it also has the potential to derail viewers from moving toward more in-depth journalism, a concern that grows every day.


According to the Journal of Magazine & New Media Research, individuals’ ability to recall and comprehend news is higher in a print source than any other medium.


But unfortunately, we’ve forgotten the power of in-depth writing and let billion-dollar companies like Facebook ambush us into delivering news in a manner most suitable to them.


Of course, the fashion in which journalism is being consumed isn’t all wrong, but to let this method replace print journalism completely is an injustice.


While it’s valuable to incorporate multimedia elements into storytelling, it’s even more important to focus on the message that’s being conveyed. Ultimately, if the process is disrupting the message itself, then it is useless.  


Keeping this in mind, as the field of journalism evolves, new media pioneers need to see and retain the value of print journalism.


And, as people continue to question whether print journalism is dying, they need to be reminded that it is instead being murdered day after day by newspaper owners who are replacing hours of digging, days of researching and a life-long passion for seconds of watered-down journalism.


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