Print newspapers aren’t dead.
I say that knowing today’s front page story about the financial woes of The Michigan Daily — and more broadly, the University’s Student Publications — can be easily misinterpreted as another example of print journalism’s inevitable demise.
I also say that as someone who has no emotional attachment to print newspapers. I’ve never bought a newspaper subscription. I don’t curl up on a couch every Sunday to read an encyclopedic-size The New York Times. And, honestly, I don’t read any print newspapers except the ones distributed on campus, like The Michigan Review, The Michigan Independent and the Every Three Weekly — all of which I read religiously.
So why, then, did I proclaim that we should stop newsprint’s funeral procession? Because the supposedly common knowledge that print newspapers are dying is a gross generalization and a poor reflection of what’s happening in the media world.
The situation, as I see it, is as multi-faceted as the thousands of print newspapers that exist in this country. We’ve just minimized that complexity into a single, fictitious catchphrase: No one reads news in print.
Sure, many print newspapers are sinking rapidly. The Times is the poster boy of that fall from grace. Even though its website is one of the most visited on the Internet, it has still been forced to borrow against its 52-story, Renzo Piano-designed headquarters and defile its front page with advertising — all because it can’t generate the same kind of revenue online it once made from its print product.
Close behind the Times are many other big city or national newspapers. The Tribune Co. — which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, among other newspapers — has already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Detroit Free Press is cutting back its home delivery to three days a week. And the Christian Science Monitor has already made the leap to being an online-only newspaper.
The rapid online shift these newspapers are undergoing makes sense. These papers primarily offer news that is intended for a large, heterogeneous audience. The Internet is the ideal medium for that. Compared to expensive home delivery subscriptions, it’s simply a faster, cheaper and more convenient way to get information to all of these people while understanding that almost no two consumers are alike.
That’s not the situation for local and, especially, college newspapers. These publications have closed, captive audiences in which a print paper is still an effective medium. Why? Because it is still a convenient way to spread information.
Take, for example, The Michigan Daily. The Daily’s greatest strength is that it offers news about the University of Michigan that no one else can offer. Because it exists in print for free, students pick up a copy on their way to class and leave it on the seat next to them in lecture, where another person picks it up, leaves it somewhere else and continues the chain.
As long as students go to class and are then bored in class, the print version of the Daily can be effective. The same thing goes for The Michigan Review, The Michigan Independent and the Every Three Weekly. The New York Times doesn’t have that same advantage.
That doesn’t mean michigandaily.com can’t be just as effective, if not more effective, than the print version of the paper. It can be — but for different reasons. It can offer expanded resources and different types of content the print Daily can’t, including video and audio content, as well as resources like an events calendar, entertainment guide, crime map, real estate guide and a host of other useful tools.
And that’s the type of content we’ve been adding to the site so students have one central resource to turn to for information about this campus. While we build up the site, we also want to know what you, as readers, want to see. What do you want from the Daily and its website? How do you want it presented? How can we serve this campus better?
Ultimately, that’s why we’re putting this paper together. And no matter what the format, you can be sure of this: The Daily will continue to lead the campus conversation every day and provide students with the vital information they need to get the most from this university.
Gary Graca is the Daily’s editor in chief. He can be reached at email@example.com.