This house believes that newspapers are a thing of the past

Around 1440 German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented one of the most important and influential inventions of the second millennium, the printing press, and it was from the advent of this technology that the newspaper was born. Newspapers went from strength to strength and they became an important part of democracy. George Washington in 1788 stated that:

 

 “For my part I entertain a high idea of the utility of periodical publications; insomuch as I could heartily desire, copies of ... magazines, as well as common Gazettes, might be spread through every city, town, and village in the United States. I consider such vehicles of knowledge more happily calculated than any other to preserve the liberty, stimulate the industry, and ameliorate the morals of a free and enlightened people.” 1

 

 In the 21st Century, however, with the availability of other forms of media, such as TV and the Internet, the once highly important newspaper entered a state of significant and rapid decline in many places across the world with readerships entering a seemingly never-ending downward spiral. This has left many commentators to suggest that newspapers are a thing of the past, Phillip Meyer in The Vanishing Newspaper suggests, by extrapolation of current trends, that by the first quarter of 2043 the newspaper industry in the US will be completely extinct. Others suggest, however, that this is overstating the decline of newspapers, it could be suggested that there will always be a demand for printed word despite the current decline, for example in the UK on the 26th October 2010 the first daily newspaper to be launched for 24 years hit the shelves and as of April 2011 the “I” newspaper had a regular readership of over 160,000 2 suggesting that perhaps that some demand still exists.

 

 What is most certainly true of newspapers today is that they are, in the developed world at least, losing their readerships, however, does this necessarily mean that there is no longer a place for them in the modern media landscape, are newspapers dead or are the rumors of their death greatly exaggerated?

 
Title 
People no longer consume media in a linear way, people prefer to pick and choose what news they consume
Point 

With the development of Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) and more generally the internet people have come to no longer simply consume media in a linear fashion, they take a more fragmented approach. In news consumption people no longer want to simply have one newspaper with a vast array of topics inside. They want to pick and choose which stories and columns they consume, people now prefer to pull the content they want rather than have it pushed on them. In a digital world the news consumer can become their own editor and no longer need to rely entirely on old hierarchical structures.

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Counterpoint 

The positive side of a newspaper IS the fact you have a vast array of topics, which you would not usually consume. It broadens the mind as you may often come across stories you never usually take notice of. This opens up a whole new world of interest, whereas if people are given the role of editor they would most likely simply choose to read what already interests them and their channels of perception will become narrower. In addition to this, newspapers are not necessarily linear. They do not have to be read in a linear fashion, people can choose which stories they wish to read and reject those they do not. Newspapers are far more flexible than they are generally portrayed 1. Modern newspapers have adapted their design to increase their consumption by the public.

One good example of this is the change in size of many British newspapers, from broadsheet to tabloid 2.

1. Daily Beast, 2009

2. BBC, 2011

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Title 
In the internet age immediacy is everything, newspapers can often contain out of date information by the time they hit the shelves.
Point 

In an interconnected global world whereby technology allows us within seconds to communicate across the globe in a variety of forms the newspaper medium becomes obsolete. In the time it takes to write, edit, print and distribute a newspaper the events being covered may very well have changed, when we have the technology to overcome this problem it seems unlikely that newspapers will continue to exist because who wants to read old news?  An example of newspapers not being able to adapt to changing events can be seen with the killing of Osama Bin Laden on 2nd May 2011, the story broke too late for the morning newspapers in the UK to be able to change their pages to include the story, it was then subsequently reported a day late on the 3rd May. 1

 

Front Pages Today (2011) Newspaper Headlines from UK for 3 May 2011. [online] [accessed 27th July 2011]

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Counterpoint 

It is true that newspapers cannot adapt as quickly as other types of media to breaking news events, however there are advantages to having slower news. Reporting news events immediately as they happen often leads to speculation as the bigger picture is often unknown by the journalists, therefore having time to digest the given event can allow for more accurate and detailed reporting rather than broadcasting facts which may not be immediately confirmable, a longer time before publication then is likely to result in more accurate, less speculative information. For example many TV news outlets were reporting, when the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on the 11th September, that it was an unfortunate accident. It of course later emerged to be the work of terrorists.

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Title 
Newspapers cannot be environmentally sustained.
Point 

Newspapers have no place in the modern media landscape as they are not environmentally friendly, they are a waste of paper when there are many other my efficient ways in which news can be disseminated. For example a single annual subscription to the New York Times roughly generates 520lb of waste which equates to approximately 4.25 trees being cut down per reader per year 2, when you take into account all the other publications that printed throughout the world this equates to a lot of wastage of increasingly scarce natural resources which could be avoided. Using digital tools to distribute news is more efficient as you only use resources when the content is actually required rather than the print media method in which the product is printed when it may not be necessarily purchased and consumed.

ID2 (2011) Facts about Paper and Paper Waste. [online] [accessed 18th June 2011]

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Counterpoint 

Newspapers do still have a place in the modern media landscape; the environmental argument against them is flawed, for example the Newsprint and Newspaper Industry Environmental Action Group (NNIEAG) state that: “Recycled paper made up 77.4% of the raw material for UK newspapers in 2010” 1 so the claim regarding the amount of waste newspapers generate is not actually as high as is being suggested.

 

 What the argument also neglects to state is that electronic media is not entirely environmentally friendly in itself, much of the power required not only by personal digital devices but also the infrastructure needed to keep it working does not on the whole come from renewable sources, whereas printed media does makes greater use of environmentally friendly sources for its production. A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers states that: “Forestry, paper and packaging are among the most sustainable industries in existence.'” 2

 

NNIEAG (2011) Newsprint and Newspaper Industry Environmental Action Group Homepage. [online] [accessed 13th June 2011]

Two Sides (2011) Print and Paper is a Wasteful Product. [online] [accessed 16th June 2011]

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Title 
Newspapers are financially unviable
Point 

In the internet age, Newspapers are no longer financially profitable businesses. They are struggling to encourage investment and to survive in the long-term. Revenue is falling across the three main streams available to newspapers: sales, advertising and subscriptions. Sales and subscriptions are dropping as consumers move to the internet for information (often the website of the newspaper themselves!)1 Advertising is not as profitable either, as increasingly advertisers look to pop-up systems on websites and buying space on search engines. Many newspapers have resorted to cutting costs (firing staff, reducing the length of the paper) and raising prices. Yet it does not seem likely that people will be willing to pay more for less. 

1. Keevey, R., Sattin, D and Hale, T. (2009) The Newspaper Crisis. Princeton University, 1st May 2009. Policy Research Institute for the Region: Princeton University.

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Counterpoint 

This argument overstates the situation. Newspapers are less profitable than they were at their peak, but newspapers have been affected by other media ever since the invention of the radio. Much of the evidence the proposition has raised focuses on the Western World. According to the World Association of Newspapers, more newspapers are being published than at any time previously. There are strong growth markets in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. The Middle East and Africa also sustain strong markets, though there is less growth 1.

Furthermore, Newspaper advertising is an effective revenue source. Advertisements in the traditional print tend to get more attention from readers than on the internet, because people read papers more intently.

Finally, some newspapers are actively engaging with the internet by charging for premium content to their services. Even if they lose some customers, this is made up by a net increase in revenue2.

World Association of Newspapers (2010) World Press Trends: Advertising Revenues To Increase, Circulation Relatively Stable. [online] [Accessed 2nd September 2011]

Columbia Journalism Review, (2009) Print Newspapers Still Dominate Readers' Attention. [online] [Accessed 2nd September 2011]

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Title 
Newspapers offer a better reading experience than digital alternatives
Point 

The experience of reading from a newspaper is a far better user experience than reading from a screen, reading from a screen for long periods of time is not only bad for the eyes but quite often becomes uncomfortable. A newspaper however requires natural light to be read and therefore is not as harsh on the eyes. It could also be suggested that people actually prefer the tactile physical experience of a newspaper or book over holding an electronic device, a poll taken on the Guardian 1 website found that 76.1% preferred books, i.e, a physical experience, over a digital one.

 

Video and audio-based advertisements placed online around the text can also disrupt the reading process, a problem, which does not afflict newspapers.

 

Guardian (2008) E-books or Real Books? [online] [accessed 13th June 2011]

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Counterpoint 

Normal backlighted displays can be bad for the eyes, however there are other digital technologies which address this issue, for example Amazon’s Kindle e-reader using a technology called e-ink which simulates ink on a page and requires natural light to be read 1. It could be argued that the tactile argument is flawed, because if people did prefer the tactile experience, newspapers would not be in a state of severe decline. Furthermore the concept of what constitutes a better reading experience is subjective. Shorter, more to the point text and the ability to hyperlink to related pieces of content and access information in a non-linear way could be considered a much better experience compared to reading long passages of text in a linear fashion. 

 

Popsci, (2010) Testing the Best: The Kindle's E Ink Pear Display [online][Accessed 2nd September 2011]

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Title 
Newspapers provide higher quality journalism than other media
Point 

As newspapers are a slow medium, having a daily output most typically, they can produce better quality material than other news sources which strive for immediacy. Professional journalists and experts have time to consider the issues and write well structured, coherent and highly informed pieces which other types of media cannot compete with. A demonstration of the high quality of journalism found in newspapers can be seen in the fact that quite often newspapers set the news agenda for the rest of the day for other media outlets 1. Perhaps most importantly, modern graduates of schools of journalism still tend to favour working for newspapers as their long term career ambition. This is because the working conditions tend to be far superior, as is the regularity of payment and job security.

Those blogging in the online media note their treatment as second-class outlets, long hours and poor pay. The best and the brightest head to newspapers 2

Economist, (2006) Who killed the newspaper? [online] [accessed 27th July 2011]

Counterpoint 

Other types of media can produce equally, if not better, pieces of journalism than newspapers: it’s more just a matter of style. While many TV news outlets do often strive for immediacy in their coverage they also feature special reports, such as the BBC’s flagship Panorama program, which are much more detailed and can stand on an equal footing with newspaper journalism. There are many newspapers, such as tabloids with little journalistic quality. So, the matter of quality does not come down to the type of medium being used, as this only affects style, it comes down to the person or people behind the given output.

Title 
Newspapers are a more trustworthy source of information than independent bloggers
Point 

Online anyone can launch a blog and start publishing, these articles could potentially be false, badly-researched or overly bias to name but a few issues, this raises the question of quality control of information online and its trustworthiness. For example a blog purportedly written by a gay woman in Damascus trying to avoid state persecution over her sexuality turned out to be a hoax, the identity of the blogger turned out to be straight 40 year old US man living in Edinburgh. 1

As newspapers are most often subject to regulations regarding what they print as well as being subject to market forces it is on the whole unlikely that they will publish something that is factually inaccurate, at least not with intent. Journalists working at newspapers are well trained and more often than not sign up to voluntary ethic codes in order to be accepted as trustworthy sources 2. Bloggers on the other hand can publish without any formal training and for the most part stay anonymous, which could lead to falsehoods being spread. Bloggers are often described as “parasitic,” since they criticize “old media,” whilst simultaneously relying upon it for the basis of their factual information. Yet Bloggers do not tend to be the groups funding news reporters across the world 3.

1. BBC. (2011) Syria Gay Girl in Damascus Blog a Hoax By a US Man. [online] [accessed 15th June 2011]

2.Pew Research Center, 2011

3. Murley, B and Roberts, C. (2005) Biting the Hand that Feeds: Blogs and second-level agenda setting. In: Convergence Conference. BYU (Brigham Young University), 2005.

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Counterpoint 

As newspapers are funded by private companies they can be accused of avoiding to publish information which may damage their revenue streams, independent bloggers often do not have this issue so can be much more free in what they publish which is ultimately good for democracy. In addition to this journalists may vastly distort the truth in their reporting in order to satisfy advertisers which seek certain demographics, whereas independent bloggers do not have this concern.

A consequence of online freedom is of course that anyone can publish anything but it should be down to the reader to decode what has been blogged and make up their own mind as to its accuracy, it is demeaning to suggest that consumers of news information are simply passive consumers.

Professional journalists, even when based in an official setup and with a code of ethics, are not entirely guilt free in regards to publishing inaccurate information either, there are many instances where false information has been published, for example many journalists reported the potential link between MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccination and Autism in a sensationalized way which did not entirely relate to the research and which, as a result, caused a huge number of children not being immunized 1. Perhaps the most famous recent example where journalists have behaved unethically is the phone-hacking scandal in the UK 2.

To call blogs ‘parasitic’ is also insulting and unfair. Many of them do their own research and cover issues not in the mainstream media. It’s not unique to blogging to discuss the work of others, and indeed many newspapers do so 3 So what’s the difference? 

Deer, B. (2011) The MMR-Autism Scare: An Elaborate Fraud. [online] [accessed 13th June 2011]

BBC, (2011) Phone Hacking: US Senator Calls for News Corp Probe [online][accessed 2nd September 2011]

Online Journalism Review (2007) Are blogs a 'parasitic' medium? [online][Accessed on 2nd September 2011]

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Title 
The balance of analysis and relevancy is better struck by newspapers
Point 

The argument that internet news tends to offer small passages of text compared to newspapers is to be liberal with the truth, due to the vast nature of the internet it offers a variety of styles and is arguably more likely to provide longer passages than newspapers as there is not space restriction as there is with newspapers which can only be a certain size, due to advertisements and printing agreements.

With the ability to both search for and easily share content via social networks, the argument that newspapers are better as they prevent information overload feels weak because there are many ways in which content can be filtered to ensure that both the news you actually want and the style and perspective you prefer can be easily accessed.

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Counterpoint 

The argument that internet news tends to offer small passages of text compared to newspapers is to be liberal with the truth, due to the vast nature of the internet it offers a variety of styles and is arguably more likely to provide longer passages than newspapers as there is not space restriction as there is with newspapers which can only be a certain size, due to advertisements and printing agreements.
With the ability to both search for and easily share content via social networks, the argument that newspapers are better as they prevent information overload feels weak because there are many ways in which content can be filtered to ensure that both the news you actually want and the style and perspective you prefer can be easily accessed.

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Title 
The internet edits what you can see without your knowledge
Point 

When you purchase a newspaper you know what biases they may contain, getting news online can be more troublesome as services such as Google and Facebook use algorithms which personalize content for you based on your interest. This creates what is known as a “filter bubble”1 whereby online services filter out news which may not be of normal interest to the reader, the problem with this is that it is often done without the user being aware of it, which clearly raises issues of trust.

Praiser, E. (2011) Beware Online 'Filter Bubbles' [online] [accessed 15th June 2011]

Counterpoint 

While algorithms may filter out content which does not normally appeal to a particular reader the internet itself does not block access to any information, if someone wishes to seek out another view on a topic it can be easily found by changing a search term. The idea that having news personalized behind the scenes makes online news less trustworthy is a weak proposition as the personalization constantly changes along with the users unlike inflexible newspapers chasing particular demographics.

 

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Bibliography 

Barber, P. (2011) A Brief History of Newspapers. [online] [accessed 13th June 2011] Available at: <http://www.historicpages.com/nprhist.htm>

BBC. (2011) Syria Gay Girl in Damascus Blog a Hoax By a US Man. [online] [accessed 15th June 2011] Available at: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13744980>

BBC, (2011) Press and Journal newspaper goes tabloid on Mondays. [online][accessed 2nd September 2011] Available at: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-14276909>

BBC, (2011) Phone Hacking: US Senator Calls for News Corp Probe [online][accessed 2nd September 2011] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14132168

Columbia Journalism Review, (2009) Print Newspapers Still Dominate Readers’ Attention. [online] [Accessed 2nd September 2011] Available at: http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/newspapers_time_spent.php?page=all

Deer, B. (2011) The MMR-Autism Scare: An Elaborate Fraud. [online] [accessed 13th June 2011] Available at: <http://briandeer.com/solved/story-highlights.htm>

Daily Beast, (2009) Paper Hangers: Newspapers aren’t doing as badly as you think. [online] [accessed 2nd September 2011] Available at <http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/10/28/paper-hangers.html>

Economist, (2006) Who killed the newspaper? [online] [accessed 27th July 2011] Available at: <http://www.economist.com/node/7830218>

Front Pages Today (2011) Newspaper Headlines from UK for 3 May 2011. [online] [accessed 27th July 2011] Available at: <http://frontpagestoday.co.uk/2011/05/03/headlines.cfm>

Greenslade, R. (2010) Journalism Students may be ‘digital natives’ but they crave jobs with ‘old media’ [online][Accessed on 2nd September 2011] Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/may/18/journalism-education-sundaytimes

Guardian (2011) ABC’s: National Daily Newspaper Circulation April 2011. [online] [accessed 13th June 2011] Available at: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/table/2011/may/13/abcs-national-newspapers>

Guardian (2008) E-books or Real Books? [online] [accessed 13th June 2011] Available at: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/poll/2008/sep/10/1>

ID2 (2011) Facts about Paper and Paper Waste. [online] [accessed 18th June 2011] Available at: <www.id2.ca/downloads/eco-design-paper-facts.pdf>

Keevey, R., Sattin, D and Hale, T. (2009) The Newspaper Crisis. Princeton University, 1st May 2009. Policy Research Institute for the Region: Princeton University. Avaliable at: http://wws.princeton.edu/research/prior-publications/conference-books/PRIOR-NewspaperCrisis-web.pdf

Le Monde (2009) Les forçats de l'info [online][Accessed 2nd September 2011] Available at: http://www.lemonde.fr/actualite-medias/article/2009/05/25/les-forcats-de-l-info_1197692_3236.html

Meyer, P. (2004) The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age. University of Missouri: Columbia

Murley, B and Roberts, C. (2005) Biting the Hand that Feeds: Blogs and second-level agenda setting. In: Convergence Conference. BYU (Brigham Young University), 2005.

NNIEAG (2011) Newsprint and Newspaper Industry Environmental Action Group Homepage. [online] [accessed 13th June 2011] Available at: <http://www.nnieag.org.uk/index.html>

Online Journalism Review (2007) Are blogs a ‘parasitic’ medium? [online][Accessed on 2nd September 2011] Availiable at: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/070301niles/

Praiser, E. (2011) Beware Online ‘Filter Bubbles’ [online] [accessed 15th June 2011] Available at: <http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html>

Popsci, (2010) Testing the Best: The Kindle’s E Ink Pear Display [online][Accessed 2nd September 2011] Available at: http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2010-11/testing-best-kindles-e-ink-pearl-display

Two Sides (2011) Print and Paper is a Wasteful Product. [online] [accessed 16th June 2011] Available at: <http://www.twosides.info/content.asp?ContentID=38>

World Association of Newspapers (2010) World Press Trends: Advertising Revenues To Increase, Circulation Relatively Stable. [online] [Accessed 2nd September 2011] Available at: http://www.wan-press.org/article18612.html

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