There are many polarizing topics on the minds of people across the world today, but one thing that almost everyone can agree on is that the news is different now than it was thirty years ago. Like a great many other things, the way that people collect news has underwent a transformation since the invention of the internet. Those who used to subscribe to daily newspapers can now find free information online. Not only is it free, but you can find information on virtually anything, from almost anywhere in the world. The information that you find is constantly changing, and you can monitor its movements, meaning you already know what’s going to be printed on the paper’s front page, and you’ve moved on to something else before it is. The invention and eventual widespread adoption of the internet as people’s primary way of collecting news and information has utterly gutted the traditional newspaper industry. Papers with enough money now have an online presence, and some have done very well, however the small and midsized newspapers that in some cases had been around for over a century have started to disappear.
All this, in the eyes of some, is the end of the story. Newspapers are out. Online, you can find more news about more things, published by more people on more platforms in more ways. More, more, more, more, more. But there are people who aren’t satisfied with the new model of news, media and information. There are those who are unhappy, for one reason or another, with the state of digital media today, and there is plenty to be unhappy about. Misinformation is being spread across social media platforms just as often as real information is. News can be produced by almost anyone now, so finding well-researched, genuine reporting is harder than it’s ever been. Perhaps worst of all, the vast collection of articles, videos, blogs and websites that can be found online will justify or reinforce any given opinion or view, if those who hold those views and opinions search hard enough.
Different people have different ideas about how to fix the problems that the digitized news industry has created. Tightening regulations on who and what social media companies allow on their platforms is a big one. The issue of how to keep hard-working, full-time professional journalists in business without compromising the objectivity of their work is another. There is a consensus however, that people want to trust the news and information they’re getting, they want to know where it’s coming from, and they want to know who is behind it. For all the advantages that the internet has brought to the news industry, it’s monumentally bad at insuring those things.
This brings us back to the newspaper, and why it was created in the first place. People have always wanted to be connected to their communities, and to the world. News and storytelling have always been universal needs. Newspapers provided people with stories and critical information. The term “gatekeeper” was attached to journalists because they were the ones who gathered the world’s information, identified what mattered most to their audience, provided context, made sure it could be understood by the reader, and delivered it to your door.
There’s no doubt that the internet has since exposed many weaknesses of the newspaper, but the traditional paper model was in place for hundreds of years before then. The newspaper succeeded almost everywhere, and there’s a reason why. When someone complains about untrustworthy news sources or amateur online writers who aren’t equipped to properly report, they’re weighing it against the old model of traditional newspaper reporting by professionals. When someone says that all the information online makes it too hard for them to discern what’s news and what isn’t, they’re saying that they miss the newspaper’s uncanny ability to do that work for them. The newspaper happens to be a remedy for most of the things people are worried about and frustrated with when it comes to news media today.
For every advancement that the digital news era has brought to the masses, comes a new challenge. The answers to these new questions won’t be found through further innovation though, because they’ve already been with us for centuries in the form of the daily newspaper. It would be ridiculous to believe that traditional newspaper service will ever again be what it once was, but certain lessons can be learned from the past.