Column: Balancing Both Print and Digital News

You probably haven’t noticed that The New York Times is no longer in the Fishbowl or Student Center, and that is kind of the point. The distribution of The New York Times has been limited to residence halls only. Why? Because hardly anyone noticed that it was gone.

The New York Times could not even give their newspapers away for free at Ramapo, let alone sell them, but it’s no secret that the newspaper is dying a slow, painful death.
I am not going to rant about the fact that nobody reads newspapers anymore and that the industry is in serious trouble because, frankly, the topic has been beaten to death. But believe me, they are in trouble. And why are newspapers in trouble? I think the answer is simple: technology (and our obsession with it, which I am guilty of).

I spend about 20 hours a week preparing to put out a newspaper every Thursday, and even I did not and do not pick up a copy of The New York Times every day. However, I do read the news in some form every day. I read it by following The New York Times on Twitter and clicking the links they post. I read it by clicking on links that others on Twitter and Facebook post, or the breaking news alerts that pop up on my phone.

Social media and online news is not the problem. The problem is the way we are using it.

At the heart of social media is the very word in its title: social. As news gets dragged into social media, it becomes a social experience more and more, and an individual experience less and less. Take citizen journalism, or the ability to be an active audience and comment on online news articles.

The social aspect of news is so important, but I think it’s also important to balance it with individuality. By that, I mean the individual experience of picking up a newspaper, or even going on the website of a newspaper, and flipping or searching through it, stopping to read what you find interesting.

We are doing it backwards. Before the Internet you read the newspaper in the morning at your kitchen table or at work or in a coffeehouse, and after, you went out and discussed the morning news with your peers, but only after you bought the newspaper on your own and chose what to read on your own. Now we are discussing first and reading (or educating ourselves) second.

We are no longer choosing and reading articles alone. We’re reading them with an active audience, who probably already posted their opinions in the comment section under the article. We’re finding articles via friends’ profiles and Twitter accounts, and we know their opinion on the article before we even read it. And even if we are browsing websites and choosing articles on our own, we are choosing them based on what might be interesting to post to our Facebook friends, or reading a Buzzfeed list to get that satisfying feeling that we relate to our peers because we share the “10 Ways you Know you’re Addicted to Coffee.”

My point? Pick up a newspaper while you still can, or even just browse an online news forum on your own. It’s okay to be alone with yourself for a little while. Read an article because you were compelled by the topic, not because you think it will be cool to post on Facebook this afternoon. Be alone with yourself and be okay with it. I promise you that you do not need social media or Buzzfeed lists to verify that you relate to your peers.

The Internet is revolutionary, but it needs to be balanced by the individual. Take the time in the morning to flip through a newspaper or browse your favorite news sites. And, by all means, after you read about what’s going on in the world, challenge it or support it. Put it on social media, become an active audience. Educate yourself, form solid opinions from your own mind, your own view, and then go out into the world of social media and stick to the idea and opinion that you know to be true. Not the idea you learned to be true because you feel like you should agree with the article that the smart kid from your Monday class posted.