Is print media really dead? Looking around, it’s easy to think that. I don’t think I’ve opened up a paper newspaper or magazine in years. My new glasses are kitted out with a special coating that filters out blue light because of how much time a day I spend reading something on a screen. All of my old books–with their bruised spines, fading lettering, yellowing pages, and that wonderful old book smell–are percolating in dusty boxes while I read old classics on my new Kindle.
Look around. When you see newspapers and magazines, old handwritten letters and new books, what do you think of? When you think of print media, what do you see?
Personally, I don’t think of things like ye olde printing press or those new-fangled laser printers. I’m a little old school (but not olde school). I think of typewriters.
I think of hands poised over clacking keys, and the sight of a crisp new page, waiting to be filled. I think of the trepidation that comes from putting that first letter, then that first word, then that first full sentence on a page. (What if it’s wrong?) I think of long minutes spent procrastinating when I should be writing. (I should be writing!)
Does this sound familiar? It should. You don’t have to have used an old fashioned typewriter to relate to how daunting writing can be sometimes. How are the keys of a typewriter different from the keys on a computer keyboard? How is a physical blank page of paper any less mocking than the blinking cursor in your empty word document?
Is print media dead? Maybe that’s not the right question. Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves should be whether or not that really matters. The state of media has changed a lot over the years, and it’ll keep changing. “The medium is the message,” sure, but if we distill media to its finest point, then what we have left are words. A message.
(Marshal McLuhan is probably rolling in his grave right now. Whoops.)
There was a time when the word forum meant that we shared news and ideas with each other by standing on a box in a busy square and yelling it at each other. There was a time when we carved messages into stone and clay tablets, and a time when we would spend ages painstakingly illuminating manuscripts by hand. The medium by which we relay media has changed a lot over the years, but the essence of it has not.
We don’t use stone tablets anymore, but show me your IPad and tell me how, functionally, they’re any different. We yell at each other over online forums rather than from the middle of busy markets (and you know what? Cicero would probably approve). We tend to visit online news websites instead of reading newspapers. The point here is that as times have changed, so have the means that we use to communicate ideas.
So is print media dead? Look around. I don’t think that matters.