Editorial: Whether Print Or Digital, Newspapers Still Dominate

By: Jeff Fleming

Editorial: Whether Print Or Digital, Newspapers Still Dominate

The Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York’s Zuccotti Park is a microcosm of how a modern day protest is engineered — digital media firepower, crudely painted signs, and deployment of a newspaper for hand-to-hand combat. The Occupied Wall Street Journal, supported solely through donations and printed in a secret NYC location, is a well-crafted, four-color broadsheet offering insightful articles and practical information on how to get involved in the revolution. It is an inspiring example of the power of the press and the imperishable relevance of a newspaper.

“Forgive an old newspaper hack a moment of sentimentality, but it is somehow reassuring that a newspaper still has traction in an environment preoccupied by social media. It makes sense when you think about it: Newspapers convey a sense of place, of actually being there, that digital media can’t. When is the last time somebody handed you a website,” wrote David Carr of The New York Times.

Whether print or digital, newspapers continue to defy naysayers and revamp, rework, and reinvent, maintaining their role as the most credible source for news.

The Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism’s recent study fleshed out two significant findings:

Nearly seven in 10 respondents to its national survey of more than 2,000 Americans said the absence of their local newspaper would not have a big impact on their ability to keep up with information about their community — a humbling conclusion, but …

Conversely, the Pew report went on to say, “The data show that newspapers play a much bigger role in people’s lives than many may realize. Newspapers (both the print and online versions, though primarily print) rank first or tie for first as the source people rely on most for 11 of the 16 different kinds of local information asked about — more topics than any other media source.”

According to Pew, newspapers rank as the top source for news on community events, crime, taxes, local government, arts and culture, social services, zoning, and development. Newspapers tie with the Internet as the top source for news on housing, schools, and jobs, and tie with TV as the top source for local political news.

In another finding, The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers reported last month that print newspapers still reach a greater audience than online news sites — an astonishing 2.3 billion print readers vs. 1.9 billion Internet users.

WAN-IFRA’s report indicated that daily print newspaper circulation fell 2 percent in 2010, roughly 528 million to 519 million. But the report went on to say that digital newspaper readers have helped bridge the gap, overcoming the 2 percent drop in print.

With these significant findings, I suggest a slight modification to an old joke, reflecting newspapers’ resiliency, “After a nuclear war, only three things would remain: cockroaches, Cher, and newspapers.

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