A few years after graduating college, as newspapers were coming to grips with having an online presence, and I found myself as a newspaper reporter wondering about the future of print journalism, a copy editor friend of mine said she will never stop reading newspapers in their paper form.
She loved the feel of holding the paper in her hands, flipping through its big, broad pages and getting newsprint smudged on her fingertips. It truly was a tactile experience for her.
She has since left journalism and is living abroad. And other than being Facebook friends, we have lost touch. I wonder if she still holds true to those statements. Because, even as I agreed with her that evening sitting on the steps to her apartment in Southern California, it has been a long time since I held a newspaper in my own hands.
Indeed, while I have not given up my hearty news diet, I consume my news through online sources on my laptop and on my smartphone (sorry, no iPad yet). Until we moved to Ohio, I subscribed to the Des Moines Register’s Sunday edition, which landed on our doorstep and was generally ignored for at least a day. I found the process of unwrapping the paper, shuffling through the mounds of advertisements and trying to find a few stories that captured my interest tedious.
So when we moved to Ohio this summer, I decided not to subscribe to the local Toledo Blade. It wasn’t has tough a decision as I thought it would have been—to actively stop receiving a print edition of the local news. I had acquired a taste for news from various sources around the web: The New York Times online, which recently started charging for online subscriptions; SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle’s online site, Democracy Now! and the Huffington Post. Since Occupy Wall Street surfaced, however, I’ve been getting a lot of my news from a lot of sites I am pointed to through my Twitter stream.
Now, it seems my news digestion model has shifted from what the newspapers put in front of me to the stories from across the world those who share my interest place in front of me. In a sense, I am the new editorial director–the editor in chief of my personal news stream.
This is not a new concept, by any means. Individual tailoring to a person’s news interest has been going on for years. In college, I even wrote a paper about the variety of the British media’s ability to cater to certain niches, which at the time, American newspapers did not do. For me, the shift has been gradual but rewarding. I don’t miss holding a paper, folding it over to get at the story, flipping pages to get to the jump buried on A23. I don’t miss getting newsprint on my fingers.
While paper seems to be falling by the wayside–hopefully saving a few trees in the process–I hope the practice of journalism will stand strong. With shrinking editorial staffs and a move toward more entertainment-driven news, I do hope that even though we’re not holding the newspaper in our hands anymore, honest, independent journalism is still something to uphold as we strive for democracy.