True fact: I haven’t subscribed to an actual print newspaper for about a decade.
Another true fact: I spent my first career as a print journalist.
I know, these two facts seem oxymoronic. But, the truth is that I strongly believe in the importance of good journalism in a democracy AND I stopped taking a newspaper soon after I quit my job as a reporter and started seminary. I’m sure this decision was in part motivated by my lack of finances and time, but not entirely. The industry was changing – and quickly.
Major newspapers began offering their content (or at least part of it) for free on the internet. You could even get the news emailed right to you. I did that. I signed up to get daily emails from The Washington Post. I still get them today.
Whenever I hear discussions about the rapidly changing media landscape, people are always saying that things are never going to be the same. They are right. You don’t have to be a media critic to know this. As the associate conference minister for youth and young adult ministries in the Iowa Conference UCC, I have spent a lot of time figuring out how to use social networking sites and other web-based resources to get information and build relationships with pastors and young people throughout the state. I have created Facebook, Twitter and Flikr accounts in the past year. I have also started to write a blog.
Still, I know that many people, including myself, are feeling grieved about the end of print newspapers. Many people love the smell and feel of newsprint and ink on their fingertips. They love lounging with the pages spread around their feet or next to them in bed while sipping a cup of coffee.
I am personally grieved that so many of my former colleagues – very talented writers and reporters — have been laid off in the past few months. I wonder just how people will get reliable news when so few jobs doing good in-depth reporting are available.
In reality, this loss is not all a bad thing. The corporate entities that had taken over the news media had all but killed good reporting in order to retain and build advertising revenue and lower editorial budgets. Newspapers were no longer owned owned by families and individuals who believed that people deserved to know good news about their city, state, country and world. Media conglomerates care primarily about their bottom line.
We are now getting information in many intriguing ways. We wouldn’t have heard nearly as much about the recent protests in Iran if it hadn’t been for Twitter and Facebook.
The bottom line is that people still need to communicate. They have a need to be in relationship with people next door and throughout the world. We can now do that pretty well because of social networking sites.
So, I ask that you not spend too much time grieving the loss of local newspapers or even of the print version of the United Church News. Instead look forward to the many new ways we can learn to communicate as a church and as a world.