Are web-only newspapers the future?

newspaperThe newspaper industry, and journalism in general, has taken some major blows in recent years. Layoffs, sale-offs, threats of closure and the inevitable demise of historic newspapers have graced headlines for months. As a trained journalist a part of me mourns the loss of such pilars of my profession. Who can forget the thrill of reading breaking news in the newspaper at such pivital times in U.S. history as the dawning of world war; women in the factories while men fought for freedom; the civil rights protests; marches on washington and Dr. King’s major speeches; Vietnam war protests; presidential impeachments; Woodstock; 911 terrorist attacks; the election of Barack Obama as the first black president. The list is endless and the documentation of history priceless. And yet, there is a price for it all. Profitablity in the age of technological revolution has rendered newspapers a dying relic of the past.

The writing has been on the wall for some time now and few were willing to take heed. I made it a point to learn web design, web journalism and web marketing when I was in college a decade ago. I feel smart for ignoring my professors who insisted newpapers would survive. I wonder what they think now? I also wonder what the demise of newpapers means for the availability of knowledge. How will the general public gain access to information if newspapers go to online only formats, or worse: disappear altogether? Sure, most people have access to the Internet at home, at work or through their public library. But I have several family memebers who don’t own computers and have little time during operating hours to make it to the library. What about the older population who find technology daunting?

Is online only a good format for newspapers? I certainly make it my primary way to gather news and am therefore a part of the problem that led to today’s announcement that the Seattle Post-Intelliger would be online only. People aren’t subscribing to newspapers and they aren’t buying them either except for historic announcements. It was a slippery slope that spelled disaster. Now I mourn the loss of this great art and documenter of life. How will the loss of newspapers change American society? The access to information? The publics’ ability to hold government accountable? This could be a major game changer and not in a good way.

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