Is print media a dying art?


Clover Wagner

The development of technology has significantly impacted the print industry by converting all work into a digital form.

Go ahead and do a Google search for “print media dead.” I’ll wait.

From the cursory search result titles alone, it’s pretty clear there is no consensus on the matter, and there probably won’t be until the last tree on earth is burned up and printing on paper is impossible. But whether speculation on the slow death of print media proves founded, it is worth asking why it seems to be dying and why we ask and argue its inevitable-not-inevitable death.

Locally, Arkadelphia was happily served with The late Daily Siftings Herald since 1918, when it formed as the hybrid sole survivor of a few local papers. It ceased publication a century later, on September 15, 2018. The very same day, Hope Star and Nevada County Picayune-Times also shut off their presses. They were closed down by their corporate overlords GateHouse Media, a subsidiary of an investment company that would merge with Gannett, the media giant behind USA Today, and Tegna, Inc., which owns Little Rock’s KTHV channel 11.

A 2019 report from the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism stated that one in five local newspapers in the US had closed since 2004, citing the “New Media Barons” like GateHouse that swallowed small papers and quickly threw up their hands when they didn’t prove immediately profitable for executives and shareholders without them investing in their acquisitions.

At the same time, many media outlets began to “pivot to video,” a phrase now synonymous with newsroom layoffs and even euphemistic for death. All of this was thanks to a false impression of increased consumer demand for video content driven by Facebook (now Meta) inflating video viewership metrics to sell more advertising. Initially, The Wall Street Journal reported metric inflation of 60-80%, but later documents in a lawsuit against the social media giant estimated anywhere from 150-900%. Many conglomerates shut down print outlets and laid off newsrooms to focus on producing short-form social media videos over text-based reporting.

The media landscape, therefore, suggests that the speculative death of print media has little to do with changing attention spans, the practicality of physical media in a digital age, or kids these days, but is the fault of insatiable corporate greed and an ever-shrinking number of ever-growing media conglomerates. The world where a handful of companies own every news outlet is a bleak one, but it is the one we live in. If the last man standing decides it would save a buck to stop running all the printers in the country, he will not hesitate to make it so.

I can’t say that print media is or isn’t dying, I’m a dumb Gen Z kid who doesn’t know anything. All I can say is that I like seeing my name in printed ink and that I sure hope the Oracle continues to provide a Community Edition paper on paper, at least for as long as I’m still here.