The Transformation from Print to Online Journalism

By Cora Hafer

Picture this: It’s the fall of 1990 and you walk into your college cafeteria for breakfast. You pick up one of the hundreds of copies of your school’s newspaper and sit down at a table to eat with your friends. You all laugh over the comic section together and read over the stories while you eat. As you leave, you look back at all of the copies scattered across the cafeteria, covering the tables and some of the floors. Flash forward to today. Many colleges are cutting back on printed newspapers, or just going online altogether, but it’s not only colleges that are having problems. A sudden rise in digital news through social media and websites is causing printed journalism to fade- and it’s fading fast. But is this even a problem we should be worried about?

In recent years, many printed newspapers have closed their doors forever due to the rise in news from social media. In fact, between 1970 and 2016, over 500 daily newspapers have gone out of business, and between January 2017 and April 2018, layoffs have been reported in around one third of the country’s largest newspapers. Even news websites, such as Buzzfeed and Huffington Post are having problems. In 2017, Buzzfeed laid off over 100 workers, and the Huffington Post has once again failed to make a profit, despite its tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Paper routes are now, for the most part, a thing of the past, and the age of digital and often unreliable news is upon us.

This decline of printed news is not an unexplainable occurrence either. Most could probably understand why, instead of paying for a Washington Post subscription and waiting for it to arrive to your doorstep, many would instead choose to quickly check Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or the Apple News app to learn the latest breaking news in a matter of seconds.

Olivia Morgan, a sophomore at B-CC, believes “that technology plays such a big role in our everyday lives that it allows social media news to be more convenient, as it is readily available and easily accessible.” Because of this, it is no surprise that social media now has a larger audience than print journalism as a news source in the US. According to Pew Research Center, 20% of Americans say that they get the majority of their news from social media, as opposed to the 16% who get it from printed media. The dominant source, with over 40% of Americans tuning in, is televised news. Compared to the difference between social media and televised news, the 4% between social media and print seem very small. However, they are nonetheless, extremely significant, especially if you consider that social media has only started being considered as a form of journalism in recent years. As technology continues to advance and spread, we can only expect that social media will continue to climb the charts and grow as a reliable news source. Additionally, although it may seem like social media has a long way to go before taking down televised news, the percent of Americans who get their news from television has dropped 8% since 2016. Honestly, social media might not be as far behind television as one may believe. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, 36% (the majority) of Americans from ages 18-29 get their news from social media, leaving television at 16%, and print at a mere 2%. Out of 20 teenagers asked by tattler, 12 said that they get their news from social media. To compare, 6 said that they get their news from television, 2 said news websites, but not one teenager said that they got their news from a printed newspaper or magazine. Many also said that they also get their news from family and friends.

But this spike in social media news does raise some concerns. News from social media sources tend to be published quickly, without enough fact-checking, and by less informed people than traditional media journalists, causing (you guessed it) fake news. It’s no secret that fake news is much more commonly found in news spread by social media than more traditional sources, but as it turns out, some are not concerned about these unreliable tendencies. Holton-Arms Sophomore, Catherine Bonnie, said, “These days, it’s not hard to find out what news is real and what news isn’t. The right answer is usually just a Google search away.” However, fake news is not the only problem with social media journalism. Studies have shown that when checking the news on social media, people are much less likely to read an entire article. According to Forbes, the average amount of time that people will stay on an article online is 15 seconds.

However, we cannot overlook the positive aspects of this new form of media. For one, it is making the youth of today more educated in the news. Before social media, teenagers and kids would avoid reading the newspaper and most would prefer to watch television that wasn’t the nightly news. Now, if you simply open Twitter to search for something, the day’s top stories pop up, and you are exposed to the news. This heighted accessibility to current events for teenagers has created more passion and activism in the youth across the globe, something that was almost never seen before social media.

After learning this, the question must be asked; is print journalism even worth saving? Some say no, after all, it wastes paper in a time where being eco-friendly is more important than ever, and why use print when the internet can do so much more? Others disagree and feel that printed journalism is necessary for older generations who do not have as much access to social media. There are pros and cons to both arguments, but at this rate, print journalism does not appear to have a future.

Graphic by Derya Taspinar

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