When the television was invented, it was said that it would be the death of radio. When the typewriter came into being, people claimed that handwriting would fall to the wayside. With the creation of email, letter writing was supposed to cease and when the Kindle was put on shelves, it was to mark the end of printed books.
The advancement of new technology is always heralded as the doom of its predecessors but the last time I checked, the radio in my car works fine, I still utilize my handwriting skills daily, I mailed a letter to my mother two days ago and I have bookcases stuffed with good, old fashioned, bound and printed reading material in almost every room in my house.
And yet, when people ask what I do for a living — and I tell them — almost always their response is: “Hasn’t the internet killed the newspaper?”
(Insert eye-roll here.) No. Of course not.
Has the industry taken a hit? Sure. But let’s be clear; this isn’t the 80’s Beta Max vs. VHS war we’re talking about here. In that case, one product replaced the need for the other entirely. With newspapers, there is one defining factor that the internet — no matter how all encompassing it seems to be — lacks: the journalist.
There is a reason entire websites dedicated to fact checking exist: blogs aren’t news, they’re Op-Ed pages at best, cleverly disguised as news.
I had an old editor who had a phrase he used repeatedly: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck — it’s still not a duck until independent and credible sources tell you it’s a duck. On the record.”
It’s a line I’ve taken to heart.
Journalists are held accountable, we’re held to a standard. Bloggers and independent websites are not. Even people who do get the majority of their news online tend to select not random websites, but from a newspaper’s online content.
Why? Because they know it’s credible.
Anyone can take a stock photo, make up a back story for it and push it out solely to garner hits for their website. Ever see those headlines for online articles that read something like: “I saw the firefighter enter the building, but I was shocked at what happened next!”
Have you ever seen a headline like that in a newspaper? No. Why? Because it’s stupid. It’s doesn’t tell the reader anything. It’s nothing more than clickbait to appease the site’s advertisers.
I’m convinced there is a special place in hell for people who write those …
I’m not saying journalists are perfect, we’re not. We’re human and we make mistakes. On rare occasions names are misspelled, dates are wrong or even (gasp!) a fact or two turn out to be inaccurate despite a source’s complete assurance. What I am saying is that when it does happen, steps are taken. Immediately. Memos are sent out, policies are changed and corrections are printed.
In short, it’s a big deal. Heads roll …
A newspaper’s reputation is the most valuable thing it has. Once you are labeled as a tabloid rag, it’s all over — you might as well start printing photos of Brad and Angelina and call it a day — because you are no longer fit for news.
Will there be as many newspapers around in 20 years as there are today? Probably not. But I don’t believe they’ll become a rarity either. Let’s face it, the days of everyone sitting around the breakfast table while Father sips his coffee and reads the morning paper before heading off to work are over.
Nowadays you’re only going to see that in Norman Rockwell paintings or old episodes of Leave it to Beaver. I know in my house, mornings are a chaotic scramble of trying to get everyone up and dressed and washed and fed.
But newspapers are adaptable and the bottom line is there is value in what we do. There are several publications right here in South Carolina that have been around as far back as the Civil War, some are even older.
A business doesn’t last that long unless it’s A: delivering a reliable product and B: comfortable with changing with the times. I know when I’m reading a newspaper that I am reading facts. There is no moment of pause where I have to go back and Google something because Facebook just told me Morgan Freeman died. (He didn’t.)
There is truth to be found in those pages of broadsheet that you are holding in your hands right now. Appreciate it.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress, The Pickens Sentinel and Powdersville Post and can be reached at [email protected] Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.