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Director of Publications
Anne Arundel 100
Opting for Print in an Online Age
Written by Daniel A. Green ’11, Economics and Public Policy major
Every morning, usually still half-asleep, I tip-toe across my gravel driveway to pick up the newspaper. I scan it as I eat whatever I’m calling breakfast that day before heading off to class. Then, later, I read it more thoroughly, piece-by-piece throughout the rest of the day. It’s a habit I started as a child, and never thought it would make news, so to speak.
Then, I was talking the other day with the River Gazette editor at the Publications Office, where I am a part-time intern. She asked me if I read newspapers. I told her that I actually pay to have The Washington Post delivered to my off-campus house. She looked at me with surprise and said, “You should write an article about that.” I laughed, thinking she was not serious about the idea, but several days later she brought it up again. Which raises the question: at what point did it become news that someone actually reads a newspaper?
I guess this is because our society is steadily shifting away from print news in favor of news provided on the Internet, largely for free. A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that newspaper circulation in the United States decreased by 30 percent between 2007 and 2009. In fact, U.S. newspaper circulation is at its lowest level in seven decades.
For me, however, having a newspaper around the house is the norm. Growing up, I became accustomed to having the living room coffee table covered with newspapers and magazines. With no TV in the living room, there wasn’t much to do outside of reading and talking to one another. My mom now acknowledges that she purposefully arranged a variety of reading material on the table in hopes it would spark an interest in reading. She tried countless methods and battled for years to try to get me interested in reading novels. It never happened. I can honestly say that I have never voluntarily read a novel for mere enjoyment. Fiction just does not interest me whatsoever; if I’m going to read, I want to learn something factual from it.
My parents took a different approach with newspapers, however. I was never forced, or even really encouraged that much, to pick up the newspaper and read it. But when my parents and older brothers would constantly sit in the living room, trading sections of the newspaper back and forth, I would get curious: What was in that paper and why were they spending so much time reading it? At first, I just scanned the various headlines and looked at the pictures. Then, I began actually reading the articles. At first, it was only stories that contained the word “Redskins” somewhere in the headline. Once I got to high school I increasingly read other articles as well. I was no longer left out of those living room conversations. It becomes a shared experience sitting there, exchanging sections and discussing their contents, “Did you see that article about so and so in Metro?” You can’t replicate that experience online.
When I mentioned to my mom that I was going to write an article about why newspapers are important to me, she laughed and bluntly said,
“Because it pays your tuition.” With a mother who was formerly a journalist, now an educator, and a father who currently works for a news magazine, it would be an understatement to say that I have an appreciation for the field. I can recount numerous dinner table conversations where the conversation centered around how powerful a tool the free press is and the good that it can do for society.
So why do I pay for something that I can get online for free? It’s really quite simple: if a newspaper is sitting there in front of me, I’m likely to pick it up and read it. If it’s not right there in front of me, sure I’ll probably go to washingtonpost.com, check out the Redskins articles, maybe even scan through the headlines on the main news page afterwards, but then I’ll move on to check my e-mail and Facebook.
When I have access to a physical copy of the news, however, I’ll read a variety of articles that I would not have ordinarily sought out. That’s what I value the most about having it delivered; its convenience lends itself to actually reading it. Plus, of course, at the end of the day, I come away with a greater awareness and understanding of the world we live in.
Now, a newspaper is certainly not essential to staying informed on current events these days but it certainly helps. The way Americans get their news is rapidly changing. Technological advancements have given us greater access to a variety of news sources that did not exist several years ago, from online news sites to RSS feeds to social networking sites. An overwhelming majority of Americans say they get their news from a variety of sources in a typical day, according to the Pew Research Center. Only seven percent get their news from a single media platform. But for me at least, I still see a tremendous benefit in a print newspaper.
PBS’ Gwen Ifill Visits Campus April 14
Each week, Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week” and senior correspondent for “The (PBS) NewsHour,” brings award-winning journalists together to analyze the major stories coming from the nation’s capital. Who better to give us the real scoop? Ifill will give us her thoughts when she presents this year’s Benjamin C. Bradlee Lecture in Journalism at St. Mary’s College of Maryland at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14, in Auerbach Auditorium at St. Mary’s Hall. Her topic: “Politics, Policy, and Reality: What’s Really Going on in Washington?”
Ifill, who has covered six presidential campaigns and moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008, will bring her veteran experience and trademark wit to highlight the day’s political headlines, including what’s going on inside the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill, and how both will affect the 2012 election cycle.
The Bradlee Lecture has brought some of the most eminent journalists to the St. Mary’s campus, including Tom Brokaw, Bob Woodward, Tony Kornheiser, and Ben Bradlee himself. The lecture is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democracy, a joint initiative of St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Historic St. Mary’s City, to explore contemporary and historical issues associated with democracy and liberty in national and international contexts.