Newspapers must be saved

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Editor-in-Chief

Over Thanksgiving break, many people I spoke to had a similar reaction when learning of my involvement with this paper. Without fail, each person said to me “but aren’t newspapers dying?”


I responded, more or less the same way to each one of them: “print editions are but the news is moving onto the internet.” And that is a true statement. But the real response to the question of “are newspapers dying” is “yes, and we need to do something about that.”


Newspapers have been struggling for some time now. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notably changed its publication from daily to twice a week in 2018, and other newspapers in the area have simply closed their doors entirely. This is very bad.


I do not like to use the phrase “very bad” or even the word “bad” when writing. What is bad? It can be hard to narrow down. It is a difficult and subjective term, so I tend to avoid it. But I can say without a doubt in my mind, definitively, that this trend is bad, terrible, awful, and could lead to the downfall of democracy.


Our society functions on information. When people think of the word “media” they typically envision a shadowy cabal of people manipulating society. Does that cabal exist? Maybe. But that’s not what the media is. A stop sign is the media. A traffic light is media. A DVD copy of Borat is media, not just the actual movie itself, but the words on the cover that say Borat communicate to the person picking the DVD up that the movie is in fact Borat.


Smaller pieces of media tell us smaller details. The stop sign, for example, tells us to stop. But larger pieces of media, like newspapers, are essential in times of crisis. If a stop sign falls over, that could lead to a car accident. If newspapers go out of business, that could lead to a lot more than car accidents.

America has witnessed this in real-time, as misinformation has become more and more widespread on the internet in recent years. Alongside this has been a clear rise in fringe right-wing ideology on par with fascism. Historically, as fascists have taken power, their rhetoric has criticized the press and banned newspapers that offered dissenting opinions to the status quo. For example, the nazis banned all forms of foreign press after rising to power.


The only way that we can stop the collapse of the press is to reinvent it. There are reasons that people are distrustful of the media, and we as media practitioners must do everything in our power to uphold the truth, and win back the trust of the general public.


Unfortunately, this will be somewhat difficult to do. I know, from my own perspective, that the media sphere is incredibly daunting. Cable news networks terrify me, and to an extent so do so-called small-town news stations that are actually owned by large conglomerates. This extends to newspapers as well. The reality of the matter is that until the media is owned by the people, not corporations, there will always be a lack of trust. And that lack of trust is the owner’s fault, not the people’s.


The long-term effects of a collapsing press are ultimately unpredictable. No one can really know for sure what will happen, and likewise, the general populace may not acknowledge the collapse of the press as the cause of the effects. The average German likely did not draw a direct comparison between the banning of foreign press and the rise of fascism, but that connection is nevertheless undeniable. In short, we as media practitioners are at a crossroads, and we need to figure out which way to go, and fast.