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Why the digital world still needs print

“Print is dead. I get all my news online now anyway.”

I hear this refrain all the time, or some other variation of it— and not just from the younger generation. It is a line used by longtime print subscribers when explaining why they don’t need their local newspaper anymore, as well as by hipsters who use the WiFi at the local Starbucks as their gateway to all the world’s information.

In the information age, it seems everyone is either expecting— or even rooting for— the demise of the print edition.

But print isn’t dead yet, and while you may get all your news online, chances are you’re still relying on print sources and print journalists without even realizing it.

Saying you don’t need print because you get all your news online is the same as claiming you don’t need farmers because you get all your food at the grocery store.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and the LA Times, get thousands of  re-tweets on Twitter per day and about as many shares and likes on their articles on Facebook. News aggregators like Google News, Flipboard and Apple News rely heavily on newspapers. Your favorite bloggers also use these same print sources to gather information.

Yes, the articles they serve are free and from the online version of their products, but it is generated largely by journalists who report for a print product.

When you start prematurely dancing on the grave of print journalism, you are forgetting that if the ink dried up tomorrow and the presses across the country suddenly were to stop, those print journalists would be unemployed and they would not be producing news.

When the presses stop, your favorite news app or aggregator will consist of a few sources, but it won’t be nearly as robust. If the print editions die, so will the majority of the online editions. Your favorite bloggers will suddenly have far fewer sources to draw from and will struggle to find topics to blog about. You will quickly find that you will have an incredibly difficult time finding any local news whatsoever.

You’ll have to start attending county commission meetings and city council meetings because no one will be there to report on important local issues.

You are able to say “I get all my news online” because print exists and print journalists produce articles that are posted online. Without the print edition, you would have very few publications that would be able to survive online only. So perhaps a better phrasing is, “I can get all my news online because print is alive.”

Chances are you don’t really want a world where print is dead. If print dies, so does your ability to be as informed by as many sources as you are now.

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