You know the lament: print is dead, and nobody reads anymore, anyway.
I think that’s wrong. And it’s not just because I’m a writer. And, I don’t think it’s as simple a matter as “print is dead;” I think it always comes down to the content.
Take my old hometown’s newspaper, for example. It would be easy to jump on the lamentation bandwagon, beating my chest and crying out that subscriptions have all gone down because the people just won’t support hometown journalism … but, quite frankly, it’s a terrible newspaper that has always been terrible. They consistently print wrong news (not sayin’ it’s fake. No Trumpisms here. It’s just … not correct.) and they can’t seem to find an editor worth her semicolons. They’re a rag. Pure and simple. So I don’t much care whether that particular publication survives the Great Print Purge of the 21st Century.
But there’ve been some truly great papers starting up lately and, yes, they’re in print. They’re online, too. Take a look at this little beauty: The Knoxville Mercury. It’s one of my favorites, consistently printing stories running the gamut of the Knoxville lifestyle, from a day in the life of a junkie (which spurred an actual lawsuit against Big Pharma for misrepresentation of opioid use. Now that’s good journalism!) to musing on the human detritus that washes up (or away) in the Appalachian wilderness.
I’m a fan of print. I like that I can hold a paper, or book, in my hand. I like that these things aren’t firing photons at my retinas at a rate of one thousand strain-decibels per second. (I made that measurement up. Pretty sure decibels measure sound, anyway. You get the point.) I like that I can pass a print publication to my friend, in person, without a password (unless I just feel like using the old treehouse password for old-time’s sake.)
But, more than being a fan of print, I’m a fan of good content. Not something recycled, not something meme-ed, although I like a good otter pun as much as the next gal. I think that’s what the traditional papers should be pursuing, if they’re interested in staying alive: hire good writers. You’ll probably have to pay them a decent wage. It’s a trade-off that’s worth it.
And if you like the Knoxville Mercury, give ’em five bucks. Their writers probably need a raise.