Over the summer, I participated in the week long Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference at the Newseum. I stayed at a hotel downtown, only a seven minute drive from my real apartment. During the day I engaged in lessons, discussions, and activities relating to journalism along with 50 kids who were just as passionate about reporting as I am. It was a dream come true. Throughout all of our different events, from our open discussion with media consultant Val Hoeppner to our visit to USA Today, one question always came up: Is print journalism dying?
I’ve always had a very romanticized view of journalism. It consists of newspapers coming hot off the press daily, being delivered to the doorsteps of homes, and enjoyed along with a cup of coffee. I see my future self staying in a newsroom as long as needed until a perfect newspaper is created, one that contains everything its readers need to know for the day. This may have been a reality a couple decades ago, but it’s becoming a thing of the past. Even I don’t get a daily newspaper: My parents switched our subscriptions from print to web a long time ago. The fact is, even though many people do get daily newspapers, the vast majority receive their news from a variety of sources throughout the day, and most of them are online.
Hoeppner is an expert on the various online platforms through which people receive their news. On the first day of the conference, she broke my little New York Times loving heart when she said that we were watching print journalism die. “To be honest I think print is fading fast, at least in the newspaper and magazine arena,” Hoeppner said in a follow-up email. “I suspect video and live video will be our main mode of communication and therefore a major source of news and information.”
She has a point. Americans primarily get their news from television, followed by laptops and computers, according to the American Press Institute The majority of Americans also receive news throughout the day, not just in the morning or evening. Still, the most trusted medium is anything directly from a news organization, whether it be online or on paper. And trust is more important than the platform it’s presented on. As Hoeppner put it, “It shouldn’t matter how we deliver news, but that we deliver credible, ethical, and interesting information.”
I still believe with all my heart that print publications will have an important place in journalism for a long time, simply for their charm. Many speculated that the arrival of Kindles meant a goodbye to paperbacks, but bookstores have actually increased sales over the last two years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There will always be people who value simplicity and tradition, people like me and you. Yes, I’m talking to you, Beacon readers. Despite an iGeneration student body, our monthly print edition remains more popular than our website.
But what’s more important is that journalism should continue to uphold the values of honesty, accuracy, and equality. The public’s desire to know the truth will never die, and whether online or on paper, this desire will be fulfilled.