Why Are Newspapers Going Extinct in the Modern Age?

Newspapers.  You know, that stack of folded papers that your parents buy a subscription to and somebody throws at your front door every morning. Maybe you are more familiar with the free copies of the Wall Street Journal in Bartley Hall. Well, here is a newsflash for you, they are gradually going extinct.

There are probably a couple questions you are thinking right now. “What’s a newspaper?” and “Why are they dying?” There are plenty of answers to all of these questions.

First, what actually is a newspaper? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a newspaper is a paper that is printed and distributed usually daily or weekly and that contains news, articles of opinion, features and advertising. Newspapers cover a wide variety of current events, such as politics, sports, business, culture and usually an opinion section. Depending on the publisher, they may also include weather forecasts, obituaries and other interactives such as crossword puzzles. They generally focus on news in geographical areas while some will cover national news.

Now, why is print publication dying?  Well, there are a couple of reasons. With increased Internet connectivity, it is much easier to obtain news. Since 2007, most large publications have had an online website to distribute their news.  After the 2016 presidential election, online subscriptions to many publishers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, rose while print news was much less profitable.  However, it seems that in total the industry has been depreciating in value steadily.  According to the Pew Research Center, the printed publication market has shrunk from a circulation high of nearly 60 million in 1994 to 35 million in 2018.

Like many problems on the Internet, it leads back to social media. With websites like Facebook and Twitter free of charge, the news travels swiftly on these websites and online subscription to publications seems obsolete to the public, but there lies the problem.  While Twitter news can spread quickly, it often lacks in content.  For a publication like the Washington Post, accuracy is of the utmost importance, because inaccurate coverage of news means fewer subscriptions and a smaller revenue.

For social media, accuracy is not important in the slightest and it shows. There is no money or revenue for this type of news.  By avoiding editing and fact-checking, information can be posted quickly, and because there is no subscription base or purchase required to read the post, many people have dropped print and online publication all together for less reliable news. However, news becomes similar to a game of telephone, in which the information gets less correct as it gets passed from person to person.

American playwright and essayist Arthur Miller once said, “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.” In the modern era, the death of print publication is a certainty based on creative destruction. Through the creation of the Internet, printed newspapers were destined to go extinct, but that means the online presence of the former print publications is even more crucial.  While not perfect, they are more accurate because it is their civic duty to inform the public to the current events of the nation.  Publications’ writings are a reflection of our history and state of mind as a nation, and without them historical record as we know it may cease to exist as well.  

If there is a solution to the American journalism industry, it is to subscribe and wait for the next issue the next day.  Not only will the information be far more accurate, but it will support the journalistic integrity entrusted to those who wish to record our history and state of mind as a nation.  Hopefully, this new form of news can revitalize the industry, but only if we, as people, decide to trust it instead of crudely written social media posts we have been shifting towards.