Print is the new vinyl

 

Last updated 9/19/2023 at 9:32am



Last week I headed out to Cody, Wyoming for the annual rendezvous of the chiefs of the Mullen newspapers. Louie Mullen is the majority owner of The Nugget, with myself as minority partner. Louie owns 39 newspapers in total, most of them weeklies, with a few dailies in the mix. All are what you might call small- town newspapers.

Louie is a man in his 30s — of a generation that supposedly eschews newspapers and gets all of their information online. Obviously, he retains faith in community journalism, and in newsprint as a viable medium for information.

There are indications that the younger generations that supposedly don’t read newspapers — or anything in print — are less averse to print than they’ve been depicted. A 2020 piece from the University of Illinois examined a study of the news consumption habits of Gen Z — those born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s.

Jason Piscia, the university’s public affairs reporting director, recounted feedback from students. It warms the cockles of a newsman’s heart:

“After perusing through my printed newspaper, I felt much more informed about the world and my community than I usually do. When scrolling through social media, I find that I have a narrow selection of information despite the vastness of the internet. Algorithms and the ability to filter content excludes a wide range of newsworthy stories. The physical newspaper provided this range because it’s not as specifically tailored to my viewpoints and preferences.”

That’s a win. Then there’s this:

“I cared more about what I was reading when it was in my hands compared to online. Maybe it’s because our social media apps are basically a dump for all news, the good, the bad, and the fake.”

As I told my colleagues at the Cody conference: Print is the new vinyl. They liked that. Bumper stickers should be issued.

It’s good to get a shot in the arm in a climate that continually forecasts doom and gloom. It acts as an antidote to another story I read last weekend where a woman noted that the men she dates get all their information from TikTok.

Pew Research Center says that “in just two years, the share of U.S. adults who say they regularly get news from TikTok has roughly tripled, from 3 percent in 2020 to 10 percent in 2022.”

That’s still well below those who get their news from X (Twitter) or Facebook, but…

At the risk of coming across as a mossbacked whitebeard (yeah, I know), that’s crazy. None of these platforms offers any depth at all, to say nothing about veracity.

As someone whose life has been shaped — and immeasurably enriched — by reading and the love of the printed word, I have real concerns about the loss represented by the fragmenting of attention spans and the lack of depth in consuming information solely online. I say that as someone who has operated a blog for over a decade (one that recommends books by the shelf, I might add).

And I wonder about trends in education. The Oregonian reported last Sunday that “Oregon education officials are quietly reviving a reform-minded method of grading focused on how well students master specific academic skills while de-emphasizing other traditional measures, like turning in assignments on time, behaving well in class and completing extra credit.”

There’s a rationale behind this; it’s not just a dropping of standards for the sake of dropping standards. (Read the story — it’s worth the time. Google “Oregonian, equitable grading”). Equitable grading is supposed to uplift students who are struggling, or who have after-school jobs that interfere with homework. I get it.

But, at the risk of coming across as a mossbacked whitebeard, I have my doubts. Good intentions have a way of getting mugged by ugly reality. I suspect that this concept will lead to enabling poor performers while disincentivizing high achievers.

I’ll continue to salute Sisters’ commitment to Battle of the Books, and celebrate those who encourage reading, especially on the printed page. It’s cool. It’s the new vinyl.

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Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit www.frontierpartisans.com.

 

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