About four months after I wrote this as an assignment, I find myself in a newsroom, ironically dealing in video production. I now believe less in what I have written in the following paragraphs and this is not just because I work in broadcast now – most of the news that I consume is from news apps and websites, a special emphasis that these are in print form even though they are digital.
But I do believe that even though print (in the form of newspapers, of course) is almost obsolete, it still is not quite…
Newspapers have existed since time immemorial. In the old days before television, radio and the radical and more recent Internet, most people got their information from newspapers. A mental image of a frenzied newsroom (the kind we’ve seen in movies) comes into mind – the editor screaming at reporters, brandishing his cigar at them as they hurry to meet deadlines; the tap, ding and zip of dozens of typewriters; the smell of ink in the air; and desks strewn with papers, concealing the busy people behind them– today though most of the elements in this image have undergone transformation, the one thing that still remains the same is the newspaper.
You may argue that when everything right from photos, graphics and content is available on the television and the Internet, what then is the use of a newspaper? For those of us who are regular with our newspaper, nothing starts off our day better than unfolding that crisp bunch of newsprint, a mug of coffee to go with it.
There are so many reasons which make a newspaper more interesting than other media, content for one. In an age where there is information available all around us, it becomes quite difficult to sort the important news from the clutter, a feat that a newspaper overcomes best. A newspaper not only reports information relevant to a wide audience but also anticipates what a reader wants to know. “Attention spans are low and media clutter is high. News has to be chosen and packaged in a compelling manner,” says Sandipan Deb, founder of the Open magazine. Stories in a paper are packaged with info graphics, cartoons and photos that not only give serve as a visual break, but for the impatient reader, they provide the gist of the story in a few words.
“A newspaper plays the role of an aggregator. One does not have to go clicking on links to catch the whole story when everything is already packaged on a page in a newspaper,” says Nandita Sengupta, senior editor, Times of India.
Cartoons like photos have increasingly becoming synonymous with the style of a newspaper. “Stories in all newspapers are more or less the same, even the photos. But a cartoon distinguishes one paper from the other,” says Ajit Ninan, cartoonist at Times of India. An amalgamation of visuals and words, cartoons lighten the reader’s day.
Another good thing about newspapers is that they can’t afford to be repetitive like T.V. shows which seem to have lost a good style of reportage. For something as exhaustive (and dry) as the Delhi Assembly elections, reporting can become challenging. News channels can show the same images, same stories in a loop but a newspaper comes up with new stories every day, though there is a hazard of repeating information. A newspaper carries more aspects to a story than a T.V. show does, making reportage richer.
Not only that, if you want to watch a programme over again, you would have to watch a recording on YouTube which most people do not have the time for. A newspaper can be stowed away, read over lunch, during tea time or even after a few days. Increasingly, newspapers have been accused of taking stands –we’ve heard of Hindustan Times being pro-Congress or Indian Express being anti-establishment. Many may see that as contrary to ‘true’ journalism which believes that good journalism doesn’t take sides but by taking stands, newspapers allow us to think and take our own stands which makes them more exciting – more effective than news anchors yelling out their opinions on the television.
There is also a certain credibility attached to a newspaper, more than to news channels or reports on the Internet which could be biased (an example of this is the numerous blogs and Wikipedia which can be edited by anyone).
As the ‘other media’ become more popular, many may say that the state of newspapers is dwindling abroad – Jeff Bezos who recently acquired The Washington Post himself stated that printed papers may be a luxury item soon; and The Chicago Sun recently got rid of its photography department. But for the larger audience in India, the newspaper still remains a primary source of news. A 2013 Indian Readership Survey placed Dainik Jagran, a Hindi daily, on the top of the readership ranking at 15,526 households while the world’s biggest English newspaper, The Times of India, ranked way behind at 7, 253 households out of a staggering 265 million households! So clearly, India has a wide audience for the dwindling newsprint.
It is true that newspapers will have to step up their game to retain their readership what with new faster and on-the-go forms of media. But for the few who still like the feel of a newspaper in their hands, newspapers won’t stop being exciting, like storybooks waiting to be read every day.