Last week, another media organization announced the pending end of their print production. This time it was Newsweek magazine’s turn to abandon its printed product and hit the web.
Newsweek editor Tina Brown announced last Thursday that the December issue will be the final print edition of a magazine that has documented 79 years of American life since its launch in 1933. Taking its place will be an all-digital magazine called Newsweek Global.
The fact that such a widely read magazine has given up on print media sounds dire, and even heartbreaking, to lovers of print journalism. But as inevitable as the end of print media seems, students — as media consumers who grew up with both print and digital media — are uniquely positioned to promote a hybrid journalism industry that draws greatness from a blend of print and digital media.
With Newsweek’s online transition, the magazine has become another one of the many cases illustrating a losing battle between traditional print news outlets and the web. According to The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek’s circulation has dropped from 3.1 million readers in 2005 to about 1.5 million in June, while the quantity of advertising pages has plunged more than 80 percent in the same time frame, leading to recent annual losses of roughly $40 million.
In short, it appears that the web’s real-time updates have been preferred over Newsweek’s outdated print cycles, and financial losses have mounted with less-than-modest growth of advertising pages and revenue. With one glance at such steep statistics, it is clear that Newsweek simply could not keep up profits in an increasingly digital industry.
That’s not much of a surprise, as it is clear that the media can’t stay rooted in its strictly paper past — the benefits of going online are obvious. The decline of print media such as Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report has demonstrated public preference all too well. Online news is quicker, more accessible and more convenient than the likes of television, newspapers, magazines and radio. Whole forests will be saved without the production, delivery and waste disposal that accompanies print media. News can now be accessed almost anywhere with a wireless connection, and breaking news alerts come in by the minute. Sharing information with friends and staying connected has only gotten easier for a vast number of people.
But though all arrows might point to a teetering end for print journalism, the point of no return has not passed yet. Though Brown told The New York Times that “no one single person can reverse [a] trend” heading toward a digital future, she’s missing something. A nation of readers — young readers especially — can change this trend.
Students have grown up during the transition from print to digital media. They are the ones who know the traditional value of print and slick convenience of online news. Students might be touted as lovers of all-things-online, but they are the youngest generation that grew up while print still held a dominant role in the world. Because of this unique background, students must take on the responsibility to not let print fall behind, but instead take a stand for the best elements of print and bring them into the digital realm.
Print media boasts unique advantages that should not be abandoned just for the speed and convenience of newer technology.
The ritual of reading a newspaper at the breakfast table, in a cafe or on the subway and the intimate, natural feel of a physical newspaper or magazine cannot be reproduced online. And though it’s true that the release of print media tends to be paced more slowly than with digital, the rise of mistakes made or false claims eagerly released online without proper fact-checking or editorial oversight makes a case for the time that print allows to verify and develop a story.
It’s up to this generation of young adults to keep the best of print while pursuing the sweeping advances of the digital world. If not, an invaluable form of media might disappear on the watch of young people who have the collective strength to revive it and turn the journalism of the future into a blend of the best. It can be as easy as choosing to continue subscribing to your favorite newspaper or magazine or showing support by picking up copies of print media on campus.
Though Dec. 31 marks the last of the Newsweek that America has known for the last century, print media’s legacy is up to the students of today. In the years to come, the print industry does not follow a doomed trajectory. Just because the rise of digital media is inevitable does not mean that the fall of print media has to be as well.
Valerie Yu is a freshman majoring in English.