Is print media dead? In the traditional sense I’d argue that it is. It is no longer the singular dominant form of news media and no one single type of media will hold such a monopoly on news ever again, barring a dystopian future with a near complete societal collapse where the population and the number of organizations are low and the amount of technological infrastructure lost is high. Those conditions might allow for a single media technology like radio to be dominant for a short time and that’s only if the internet was no longer easily accessible.
That analogy might have gotten away from me a little bit and despite the slight plausibility of that scenario, I’ll let my optimist side prevail and argue that the death of print media is not the worst thing to have happened and its passing as the dominant form of media is a prerequisite cost of technological progress. When I’m talking about print media I mean newspapers and not books, some people will always prefer the feel of paper. The internet killed print media in the same way the automobile killed the horse as a means of transportation. Yes, you can still buy horses and ride them but in most modern societies there is hardly any situation where the horse can still be a primary mode of transportation for the majority (I know the Amish exist) and in the near future, print media will be in the same category.
Maybe because I’m a young(ish) person that grew up having access to the internet I do not mourn the inevitable passing of print media. What I’m concerned about is the endangerment of fact-checked, investigative journalism with values of ethics and responsibility. Those are some high ideals that some may argue where never fully embodied by print media but the near defunct haven of print media has already run many journalists out of traditional jobs. The diminishing revenue and employment opportunities in traditional media has opened the door for the online publication of false stories that diminishes the value of real fact-checked news stories that have to compete in the same space. The concern that many journalists and communicators like ourselves have with online news media is the lack of oversight of fact checking and accountability many sites have. Sometimes you can’t even trust the fact-checkers to properly verify stories. And because the internet makes it so easy to flood people’s news feeds and twitter feeds with unsubstantiated stories, it is easy to see why there is concern for legitimate organizations to compete with endless stream of false news stories you can find (smack your head into) online. Facebook is beginning to look into managing the spread of false stories but to completely purge/and or manage the internet as a whole is one of the best definitions I can think of for a fool’s errand. So what can we do? Do your own fact checking, look for multiple reputable news sources to corroborate stories. Inform people you know about the validity of news stories and sources when you can, and eventually when the literacy for online fact-checking goes up, the problem of fake news stories will be less of the boogeyman it currently appears to be for people who value truth in news media. As for the legitimate news organizations that have to compete with the fake stories I’d say…look at their ads to so they stay around because I don’t think we want a future where legitimate news is monopolized or near extinct.