I recently took a trip to New Orleans and enjoyed the usual sights: the French Quarter, the Cajun swamplands, and even a little walk through Bourbon Street. But accidentally falling off a bicycle wasn't the only unpleasant surprise. The other one was an announcement from the local paper there, the Times-Picayune: that their offices were shrinking, there'd only be three print issues a week, and they were putting more focus on their website.
This was a huge shock to my stepmom Shelly, a regular reader. There was talk of protest to hopefully get it all undone. As much as I understood her feelings, I knew the protest was inevitable. Just like the Amity Observer, where I had an internship last year, newspapers were drifting out of circulation. And the technological shift to websites will solidify their downfall.
Now the question is whether or not this is a bad thing. And that really depends where you stand.
Obviously, those group affected most are journalists, mainly younger ones like myself. These jobs aren't quite dead, but more than one of my professors have said that the field is undergoing a "revolution." It's the reason that the "Newspaper Journalsim" major become "Newspaper and Online Journalism" two years ago. And it's the reason people entering the field are basically walking into a battlefield and having to hurriedly chose a side, learn the rules, and charge into the fray like it's the 18th century.
Students studying it are basically told: unles you're very familiar with all the new technical areas of journalism, the only job you'll be struggling to get will downsize you in two years at best. So newbies have even more fields to worry about: blogging, tweeting, and knowing how online news sources function.
I've been doing all of this my freshman year, and I'm still worried I'm not doing enough.
The second group who should care are simply those who grew up with newspapers. Unsurprisingly, they tend to be older, as the younger generation often associates "newspapers" with a good old game of "stickball." And as this generation slowly starts to run the world, the demographic for newspapers is being squeezed to the point of strangulation. When the numbers show that going to a laptop screen will save money, there's only so much opposing logic that companies will listen to.
In the grand scheme of things for papers in America, is this change a bad thing?
The short answer is no.
The longer answer is that newspapers were indeed economical and effective means of spreading information...back in the early 1700s when they began in the British colonies. This was when communities were smaller and tight-knit, giving papers the audience and circulation they needed. Nowadays people in towns care more about Tumblr photos and less about the car accident two blocks over of whatstheirface.
With the corporate goal of maximizing profits (an unfortunate yet ever-present one), not going online is one of the worst choices next to actually handwriting each paper. Add that to the environmental damage printing papers does and the greater flexibility websites gives to advertisors (a newspaper's source of profit), and the result is a kind of planned genocide of printed papers everywhere.
Journalists will face greater burdens and competition, older readers will have to accept online subscriptions, and in the end the rising dependence on the Internet means print news is a dying breed. It's why one of the writers at the Times-Picayune, David Hammer, admitted to my dad he's in a dying business. And it's why I made the choice to minor in Information and Technology at Syracuse.
Evolution is painful, but ultimately for the better.