What is the place of weekly newspapers in the age of technology?
We live in interesting times. Technology only dreamt up in science fiction movies are now a reality. When I think back over the course of my own life, things have changed so much in the world of technology. It’s no secret to people who know me well that I resisted those changes for a long time. (I refused to have a cell phone until 2005, and even then I refused the notion that smartphone technology could have a positive place in people’s lives.) I now use a smartphone every day of my life and rely on it for all of my jobs, but I still miss my clunky, black rotary dial from the 1980s. Of course, a phone like that is as obsolete as the Edsel.
Last week a friend told me they no longer take the paper because “if there’s any real news I will read about it on Facebook first anyways”. In a way, it’s true. With the internet at everyone’s fingertips and social media use so prevalent across generations and demographics “real news” travels fast. That’s not to say they get the facts right or that the majority of news spread in such a manner is not mostly conjecture, but still, it does get the word out to more people faster than the printed page can.
What then, is the place of weekly papers?
For starters, it’s the paper’s job to get the facts straight.
Secondly, it is the job of the paper to create a record of events for the community. Not just the passing of ordinances, murders, car crashes and house fires, but the town’s history as it unfolds: A new restaurant opens its doors, a centenarian turns 101, a 5th grader wins a poetry contest, a beloved member of the community is laid to rest.
I am a minimalist who doesn’t keep a lot of things, but of the few things I have kept a box of newspaper clippings from my youth is amongst them.
You might see your child’s picture hitting the home run on a computer screen, but does it feel the same? It doesn’t to me. I doubt it does to you either. I think that feeling of opening up the newspaper and seeing smiles on children’s faces playing at the new merry-go-round or splashing in a puddle is something timeless. Sure, it isn’t “real news” but it captures the lives of real people. Ordinary or extraordinary, young or small, the hero or the villain, it captures it for future generations if they’ll take the time to look.