A question was posed to us this week that I have considered many times in the past few years: What do you think is the future of journalism? A broad question, to be sure, but also thought-provoking. I have been in the journalism field for 13 years and I’ve seen plenty of changes during that time, but I think the changes happening now are the most significant and consequential. Traditional forms of media are converging and fitting themselves into the digital environment, where everything needs to be immediate, relevant and convenient.
Naturally, this discussion included the future of print journalism, specifically newspapers. The decline in the print industry has been obvious for some time, and everyone under a certain age seems to think newspapers are akin to typewriters or 8-track players, but many major newspapers and some small newspapers continue to hold on, or even thrive. I think this hold is just temporary, and newspapers will eventually die off completely, but the question is, when? I can’t answer that, but something occurred to me today about small-town newspapers. In class last night, we all pretty much agreed that small-town papers were defunct and as good as dead, but now I’m rethinking that stance. Today our free local paper was delivered, and I was eager to check it out, as I always am, for local events and news. I have to note that reading the actual paper, which is only a tabloid size, proved to be kind of unwieldy. I almost knocked over my water glass trying to open the whole paper on the table. So, size alone is one count against newspapers. But I digress. The point that occurred to me was that these local papers fill a need by supplying information about community events and local news. As we noted in class, major media outlets now focus solely on national events and trending topics, and I have yet to find good online sources for local news. The Patch websites come to mind, but personally, I find those sites rather outdated and sparse. I also think of the free commuter papers that are passed out every morning on the Metro going into D.C. Even though everyone has smartphones, you still see a lot of people reading that free paper during their commute. So, maybe these small, local papers are the ones that will survive, because they fill a need and cater to a niche market with current, relevant content. I’m not committing yet, but maybe my stance on the death of print needs to change.