A good friend of mine, who is a brilliant print journalist, recently posed this question — ironically, on Facebook: “How do you catch the news?”
It’s definitely worth thinking about, and a lot of people weighed in. In a world where we can read just about any newspaper instantly online, do we really need to keep the printing presses rolling? Is the 24-hour news channel hopelessly behind its online video counterpart? Will our grandchildren ever hold a book in their hands? Or will paperbacks seem as strange to them as LPs already do to their future parents?
These questions have probably been asked since the dawn of man in one way or another. “Is the stone tablet becoming obsolete?” “Why won’t my kids even look at something printed on papyrus anymore?” The big difference for us today is that we’ve seen many, many forms of media become obsolete in a short period of time. LPs. 8-tracks. Cassettes. CDs. VHS tapes. DVDs. Microfiche. They’ve all basically come and gone the way of the ticker tape and telegram.
Throughout history, many things were supposed to kill books and newspapers yet failed. Radio, movies, television, to name a few. The difference now is, between the omniscient and ubiquitous nature of the Internet and its newfound portability, books and newsprint have a much steeper uphill battle ahead. The Kindle and iPad essentially do the exact same thing as the newspaper and book do, not just something similar. And they do a lot more of it.
People’s habits are changing pretty drastically too. I can’t tell you the last time I watched live television. Between TV on-demand, DVR and streaming content services, there’s not much point in letting someone else’s schedule dictate my viewing. The same is coming true for the printed media. Why should I read a news story just because it’s on a piece of paper in front of me? I can find precisely the story I’m in the mood to read somewhere, anywhere, out there.
Of course, the danger of this is that we may be becoming less informed in our current events knowledge while becoming more firmly entrenched in our opinions. In his book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt suggests that we humans have a strong tendency to form opinions first, based on worldview, and then seek support for those opinions. “Anyone who values truth should stop worshipping reason,” says Haidt. “… Science is a smorgasbord, and Google will guide you to the study that’s right for you.”
Too often, what we call an “open mind” is what the person who disagrees with us doesn’t possess, not something we strive to cultivate in ourselves. Having too many choices in media may actually weaken us as individuals, and as a society, kind of like choosing comfortable ignorance over complicated intelligence. Then again, I’ll bet my granddad said something similar about the radio.
So, tell us. How do you get your news? How has it changed for you? Where do you think you’ll be getting it in ten years?
Chris Henson, Creative Director