Being a reporter in the digital age has often been a choice I have worried about. I have been told by people in online media and television that I jumped aboard a sinking ship, and there have been times I have considered if they are right.
Newspapers are shutting down and laying off hundreds all the time. As I was thinking about this one day and watching TV and listening to the radio, I realized something — the world needs newspapers.
Turn on the radio in any town or city and you will hear the news, but it is often times attributed to a newspaper. This is the same with TV news.
Both radio news and TV news were started by reporters and editors that were from a newspaper background. But as TV and radio came into themselves, it became about entertainment. The audio and visual aspects of both required a different kind of journalist, one that could deliver the news much more than find it and write it. I am not discounting the talent, I doubt I could get on TV or the radio and make a story interesting. It is just a different skill set than that of a newspaper reporter or editor.
The first few years of radio and TV I am sure was rough for the newspaper business, but newspapers have been around for over 1,200 years and are still viable. Despite all of the technological and economic changes, newspapers have been one of the most consistent parts of the daily or weekly lives of most people across the world.
The first newspaper was written in China in 713 on silk and read in various parts of the country to inform the residents of the decisions and news in government. Since 713 newspapers have of course adapted, but they still remain the most thorough source of news.
When radio news became popular the newspaper industry began to sweat for several years, but over time radio shifted from stories and news to music and morning talk shows with fart noises. Occasionally the news will be read, but it is often from a newspaper and tends to be odd news from across the world, not the important local news. Of course this isn’t always the case, but radio is about entertainment.
As television news became popular, newspapers again began to worry. While TV news is still very popular and important, it centers on telling a story in as short a time as possible. This often leads to less than a minute per story to keep viewers’ attention. While I cannot speak for all people, when I hear only a few seconds about a large and complex topic I tend to look up more about it, which nearly always brings me to a newspaper website.
After weathering the radio and TV storm, and remaining an important place to get the most accurate and thorough news, it is a wonder why we continue to fret so much about technology in the newspaper business.
We are adaptable, and we have come a long way since the Chinese government read from silk scrolls in the town square. If there is to be a change in newspapers in the digital age, I believe in may only be in the paper part. The written word is still important. This is evidence by the overwhelming success of our newspaper website.
In a county of less than 30,000 people we average around 18,000 unique and different computers signing on to read our news per month. That means that could be up to over 50,000 different people reading the news of Hazard every month.
Many of our stories average over 2,000 views in about 24 hours. This means that people still read the written word. Newspapers will weather the storm, they always have, even if this time it means the written word will no longer be written on paper.