Opinion: Long live printed newspapers. Digital won’t work for these readers.
It’s an old argument. Newspapers are dead, and digital is killing them.
It was a point of discussion in April, when President Donald Trump tweeted: “The failing @nytimes has lost all of its credibility and authority, and is now just a printed paper of very low quality and total lies. It is going to make a major mistake and will soon be gone!”
“It’s a very different issue than it was 20 years ago,” said the Times’s former national digital editor, Jonathan Martin (who is no longer digital editor) of the current print versus digital divide.
The first ink on the argument was in the late 1880s, when the National Review was founded, according to Bill Keller’s 2014 book, “The End of News.” Back then, the Internet was just another technology. The paper’s founder, William Randolph Hearst, didn’t see newspapers as a threat. He thought they were boring, and he wanted to “keep their existence and prestige limited to their own special fields,” Keller writes.
But Hearst changed his mind after he read the first issue of the International Herald Tribune. There, Keller writes, he saw “a vision of the newspaper as a platform for freedom and enlightenment and the triumph of the human spirit over convention and commerce.”
The difference between then and now? The Internet has changed everything. A typical newspaper website has become a portal to an infinite repository of information. “When you go to the New York Times website, you don’t get a page of links to every single article. The only thing on that page is a clickable title bar that says, ‘The Times.’ ”
At the Times, an editorial board member once told me (I can’t find the article now, but in the interview he described in the book) that, when it came to journalism, “a good newspaper is one where information is always available.”
The print edition isn’t dead so much as it’s been replaced by digital. The newspaper