Columns / Discourse / May 21, 2014

Voice of Reason: Looking to the future of journalism

I am not going into journalism as a career (which often surprises people who know me primarily as that one guy from TKS), but it is an industry that I care about.

I love reading a good newspaper. For this, I am a rarity in 2014. There have been times when people have seen me with my Wall Street Journal and reacted much like I had told them that I had a weirdly shaped birthmark. It’s not a positive or a negative reaction, simply one of surprise. A 22-year-old who reads newspapers without being forced to for class is somewhat of an eccentric these days.

Millennials just don’t engage with newsprint the way that previous generations have. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (there is a lot of great journalism online), but it does signal a titanic shift in the way that the world gets its news.

The newspaper is dying as a major form of media. In the United States there will be a limited set of national papers (the Journal and the New York Times, most probably) that will be kept alive because of the support of die hards who are either old or old at heart. There will additionally be a number of smaller local papers that will endure because of their importance to the local community, but the hegemony of newsprint is over.

The switch to online news holds two great dangers.

The first is financial. News organizations have to find a way to churn out quality journalism while still making a profit. As consumers are now accustomed to getting content online for free, this will be somewhat of a challenge. It will be a surmountable one, although there is always a risk that quality will suffer as organizations sacrifice quality for the sake of fiscal stability.

The second is ideological. Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to create a bubble through which only certain content with can filter (most people do not “like” pages on Facebook that post things that they don’t agree with). As news becomes ever more personalized, the human tendency to seek out information that reaffirms what we already believe to be true poses a great risk.

I often wonder about the future of the print version of TKS itself. We are somewhat isolated from the market pressures that affect most newspapers because of the large share of our funding that comes from the school, but there will come a time not too far in the future where there will simply no longer be enough students interested in print journalism to keep it going.

Even now, we struggle a great deal to find students who simply read a newspaper on a regular basis to serve as editors. This trend will only get worse with each passing year. In my estimation within a decade TKS will go entirely online.

That will be a sad day for me, having spent three years worth of Wednesdays in the publications office laying out the print edition, but I will not blame the future editors who make that fateful choice. TKS exists to bring information to the student body. If the print edition is an impediment to doing that, then it will be their duty to get rid of it.


Matt Barry
Matt Barry is a senior majoring in international relations and double minoring in economics and German. This is his third year working for TKS, having served previously as discourse editor. He has worked for such organizations as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Premier Tourism Marketing and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago, where his work appeared in such publications as Leisure Group Travel, Ski & Ride Club Guide and The Chicago Monitor. Matt has written his political opinion column, "The Voice of Reason," weekly for three years, which finished in first place at the 2012 Illinois College Press Association conference and was also recognized at the 2013 conference.

Tags:  future of journalism journalism projection media newspaper online platform The Knox Student

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