Two and a half years ago, I sat at my kitchen table in tears after receiving the position of Online Feature Editor of my high school newspaper. Though it may sound prestigious, my high school paper was as highly regarded as the Michigan football team is to the University, and the Editor in Chief position rivaled star athletes and head cheerleaders in status. Needless to say, any online position was not regarded quite as highly. But to my surprise, this position I loathed receiving now looks better on a résumé than its print-version sister I so naïvely coveted.

It now seems only appropriate, that the town I chose to spend my college years in is the first large city to abolish its own local print newspaper. In a recent article in Time Magazine, owners of the former Ann Arbor News said they believe they can turn the paper into a web publication while still generating a profit and pleasing the news-hungry public. Contrary to what my crying-at-the-kitchen-table self would have believed at the time, I now agree entirely.

Some inevitably cringe at the thought of losing their beloved morning coffee and paper-browsing ritual. But two or three generations down the road, reminiscing about this ritual will compare to the baby boomer’s talk of oversized car phones before the cell phone craze began. Speaking of cell phones, many now have Internet capability, giving owners the power of online news at their fingertips. If not through a handheld device, the Internet can be accessed through home computers, laptops, or at any of the campus libraries.

Aside from the convenience of online papers, the switch to the Web follows our nation’s increasingly environmentally conscious path. The 21st century is far more a world of Google than Gutenberg, and it’s becoming clear that print papers are becoming exceedingly less timely. Discontinuing the print version saves not only time and money, but paper. Not to mention, navigating an online paper takes far less energy than the strenuous maneuvering of meticulously folded print sections that crinkle with each movement. I understand that this familiar crinkling is what loyal subscribers will miss, but in retrospect, it’s just a matter of adjustment that will only come in time. Our nation made the switch from VCR to DVD, snail mail to e-mail, and now print papers to online papers.

University students check their grades online on CTools, stay connected through Wolverine access and are usually instructed to contact their professors via e-mail. Just this week, one of my professors specifically asked students to exchange e-mail addresses rather than phone numbers in the case they need to contact a classmate for missed lecture notes — something past generations would not understand. Even when they’re not physically on campus, students can buy football tickets online, view class syllabuses at all times, and stay up to date with what’s going on in their beloved Ann Arbor.

While my family resides right outside Washington D.C., I consider myself a dual member of both the Washington and Ann Arbor communities, and have, and bookmarked on my computer — a convenience made possible by online papers only.

But even the production side of newspapers may have something to gain by going online. I understand there is no perfect substitute for face-to-face brainstorming and communication, but with the development of technologies such as video chat and editing programs that show corrections in the margins, the process is subject to change.

I could sit here and continue to babble about all the pros and cons of online papers, as there are clearly many, but the fact that this article is likely posted online and being read off a computer screen should speak for itself. In fact, I never thought I’d say this, but if this article weren’t posted online, I would be quite disappointed.

So pick up your coffee, grab your BlackBerry and kindly recycle any old newspapers — they’re so last century.

Leah Potkin can be reached at

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