A defense of print.

Posted on September 4, 2011

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I’m back in the Red & Black, y’all! Below is my column that was published in the print edition, which has recently switched to a weekly publication, on Thursday. And with regard to the fact that I’m posting this on a blog–well, the joke kind of writes itself, don’t it?

If the Gray Lady is to die, perhaps she should take me with her.

Maybe that’s a little hyperbolic. I might not make like a captain and go down with the sinking ship of print media, but I’ll remain its champion as long as I can.

I do see the allure of the boundless, up-to-speed and multimedia-friendly online universe. What’s more, I’m an online content fiend. I’m getting paid to blog, tweet and Facebook, and I don’t hate it.

But at my core, I remain in a different niche and a member of a seemingly dying breed—one of woeful, aging print media enthusiasts.

For beyond my online addiction, I see the charm of the printed page. It’s a feeling, both literal and figurative, that a website simply cannot match.

I can’t feel a dotcom like I can the soft, light pages of a newspaper. I can’t see the ink residue on my fingertips when I scroll down the screen, and I sure can’t smell a hyperlink like I can a magazine or old book. So until Amazon releases a scratch-n-sniff Kindle, I sure as hell ain’t buying one.

Besides the tangible enjoyments I reap from print media, though, I have also noticed a more lasting effect in the information I retain.

When I hold a copy of The New York Times in my hand, I read each word of an article with careful, wholehearted attention. When I read an online story, I often abandon it before I’m done — a chat notification or email calls my name instead.

And when I see the front page of a newspaper, the layout tells me what to read first. It creates a visual hierarchy of need-to-know information.

Online, I — like many other readers — tailor my Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds to what I want to know. I opt for lighter fare, like comedy or entertainment news. It’s easy, fun and low maintenance.

Some might argue such user-friendly freedom entrusts the reader with a greater sense of power. But to me, there’s something terribly frightening about a society that chooses its information on a want-to-know versus need-to-know basis.

Yes, we are a part of a generation that loves to share information. We can often rely on others in the online world to update us on situations specific to them.

But social media should not completely replace news media as an information source. I fear that, for many in my generation and younger, they already have.

Perhaps pop culture running the global discussion is the most daunting feature of the online realm. Jersey Shore and Kim Kardashian trend on Twitter. Moammar Gadhafi does not.

Finally, as a writer, I find the sight of my words published on paper one of infinitely more gratifying proportions than the blogosphere can offer.

And as a writer for The Red & Black, I’ve of course come to the sad terms that my writing will no longer be guaranteed a coveted spot in the weekly edition. I admire the innovative progress that The Red & Black has made as a newspaper, magazine and online product. I am grateful to be a part of it.

Still, I’ll stay nostalgic for those times when I could pick up a daily copy and see — not to mention feel — the words I worked so hard to write before me. I’ll continue to pick up a copy of The New York Times on school days as long as the Collegiate Readership Program allows.

I’ll stay aboard the print media ship as long as it stays afloat.

In the end, though, perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much as long as there’s still space somewhere for me to share my thoughts.

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