The slow, agonizing deaths of newspapers

Published 7:43 pm Sunday, April 12, 2009

A few years ago I was sitting in one of my journalism core-required classes being warned of this very moment—the moment when newspapers would die.

I can’t recall which class it was in, but more than likely it was Professor Chris Karadjov’s class, as he was the most straight-forward and honest of my journalism professors.

If you’ve been under a rock lately or vacationing on Mars, first, let me welcome you back and, second, let me inform you that there have been several closures of newspaper offices across the nation.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News have just been a couple of newspapers that have folded in the past month or so.

I agree that the recession has played a part in many newspapers’ failures. However, the mismanagement of others coupled with the recession has and will seal the untimely deaths of others.

In some twisted form of jubilance, media outlets like CNN have seemingly rejoiced in reporting on the failures: Is it the end of newspapers? Will there be a newspaper government bailout? Ha! Only if you live in Cuba.

The same topic arose during a conversation between me and a friend during a shopping trip last weekend. She suggested to me that print journalism may be a dying venture.

For some one who has vested their future in writing news stories for a newspaper, it was troubling for me to hear it.

But I corrected her, while I agree the format of the newspaper is suffering a slow, agonizing death; the business for news and the need for it have only grown.

Newspapers, in their raw form, can be traced back as early as ancient Rome and China. From stone and metal tablets to the modern era of press on paper, newspapers were the first to inform and, let’s face it, misinform.

However, overtime newspapers and idea of being informed has become an integral part of our society. Meanwhile, the culture of journalism has sprouted many genres, like muckraking, watchdog, advocacy, gonzo and community journalism.

Such greats as Upton Sinclair, Ida Tarbell, Hunter S. Thompson and Margaret Fuller are products of print journalism, influencing public perception with stories on social and political issues.

In the age of convenience, one might see a newspaper as cumbersome to read—with all those pages and the black ink gets all over your fingers. Ew!

I recall Karadjov telling us in his class the format of print journalism would need to change in order for it to survive, as of right now that future format seems to be the Internet.

So, just because the death of newspapers seems like an inevitability doesn’t mean it is.

Though the recession has place the cracks in the foundation of some newspapers, the format of news will continue on.

Don’t ever count out a business that buys ink by the barrel.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.