Print is dead. Long live print.

“I have been wondering whether we have completely underestimated the viability and usefulness of the print product.”
Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated…

Here I am writing a posting in cyberspace about the paradigm of the resurgence of physical printed news media.

Irony at it’s finest.

It’s been my opinion that print news media is sitting on the edge of a renaissance of sorts. We’ve hit that point of so many online news outlets — both legit and fake — that many readers now wonder whether the information they’re reading is truly accurate.

This was never an issue back when readers received their newspaper or news related magazines on their doorstep or in the mailbox.

These institutions were committed & dedicated to providing the best local, regional, national and international news available. Sadly the demise of many of these organizations is a direct result of the internet. But in the process, that demise has created a generation of ill informed consumers who do not exhibit critical thinking skills necessary to filter much of the fake propaganda spewed forth by digital news media outlets.

The Columbia Jrn Review caught my attention with two articles on their site about how there could be a return to authentic and factual reporting of the news in a way we haven’t seen in most of this country for a long time.

I see it in two ways:

A chain of small newspapers hits on a formula for growth

Joe Smyth, a second generation newsman, quietly did something extraordinary 25 years ago — he essentially gave away his family’s chain of small community newspapers. In order to protect the small town community newspapers his family has owned, he set up a nonprofit to own the chain, guaranteeing the dividend demands of shareholders or high profit-margin expectations of hedge funds would never crimp the journalism.

Photo by Eddie Adams

The nonprofit structure of his company, Independent Newsmedia Inc (INI), allows the company to operate 25 newspapers in smaller communities in Florida, Arizona, Delaware, and Maryland, where it focuses on local news, eschews editorials, and doesn’t endorse political candidates.

What we did is essentially we created a public trust, taking ownership away from the family,” Smyth, says. “The idea came to me when the big, publicly-held companies started buying newspapers. I thought that in the long term that wouldn’t be good for news or the communities they served.

In my opinion, this was/is a very forward way of thinking outside the box in saving authentic print journalism. And given my career as a “PFJ” (Photo Fricking Journalist) started in print newspaper and magazine, this topic is very close to my heart.

Photojournalism was at the heart of visual storytelling in the days of print media and has seen a depressing decline in the staffs of print journalism outlets. It’s still at the heart of visual storytelling but has been diminished by the ever decreasing pay that was the livelihood of those who dedicated themselves to the art and craft of the profession.

The challenge faced is how to create the culture, the environment, to commit to being this radical change in thinking about how we report the news in print and visuals as in the glory days of newspaper and the weekly/monthly news publications when consumers now expect their news to be free? A dump truck, ADHD mentality has infected humanity as a result of digital technology.

Some might say this is Luddite in it’s perspective.

Perhaps.

I counter with this: In my opinion, it’s about teaching people about the value print news media offers over digital. It creates the skill, the habit, of critical thinking, slowing down, reversing the ADHD society that has been wrought on humanity. The return to print journalism also provides a service to the communities it covers. This is something that digital news media cannot do at the level that this form of “Slow Media” can. It forces readers to slow down, to think, to dialog about whats been read. It greatly diminishes the 24 hour constant news cycle that permeates broadcast news media anymore.

And there’s nothing that says it can’t be financially profitable. This requires a paradigm shift — as uncomfortable as it might be at first.

And here’s the second point to consider:

The revenge of the real

Just as digital didn’t eradicate print, it also failed to kill a lot of other things that were supposed to be obsolete. This includes the resurgence in many things “Analog”.

Vinyl Records, cassette tapes, analog film photography, Polaroids, board games, moleskin notebooks, Printed books, fountain pens, etc…

The saturation point is beginning to hit many peoples lives and they’re discovering (or rediscovering) the intrinsic value of physical, organic, tactile experiences like the turning of a paper page, the slow elegance of hand writing, the process of editing in the camera as a result of having 36 exposures per roll of film and the associated processing time it takes to see their results, etc…

The digital realm has been a boon for the distribution of information — both legitimate and fake — but we has humans are finding ourselves reminiscing about the good ol’ days (at least those of us age 40 and older). Hipsters try to look cool by shooting film, not knowing what they’re doing in many instances, I myself have a physical journal I write in on occasion. The physical, analog realm forces you to slow down, to think, to consider more than just what’s being shoved into our collective consciousness via ones and zeros perpetually.

The new paradigm is an old one and after much thought, I believe it’s the future of getting us as a population back to a more logical, critical thinking and compassionate society.

There are advances that digital technology has brought to more efficiently go to press. Digital photography provides immediacy for hard news stories, but let’s not forget the old ways are in many ways, the best ways.

How we choose to move forward is the question that’s yet to be fully answered.

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