Last week, my daughter, a recent University of Baltimore School of Law graduate, informed me that she had procured a print subscription to The Baltimore Sun. Why is that newsworthy?
First, she is currently eyebrow-deep in studying for the Maryland bar exam, spending upward of 10 hours each day, six days a week, drilling down in the minutiae of Maryland law, taking practice tests and writing endless essays.
Second, she is of millennial age, and that is not a large demographic for written news. Only 10 percent of people born between 1982 and 2004 read printed newspapers, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
Finally, readership of printed newspapers has been in steady decline since a high in 1990, going from about 60 million readers to 30 million, a 50 percent decline, according to Journalism.org.
A printer by vocation, I was left joyful but speechless by my daughter’s pronouncement. My baby with a print subscription of her own! This got me thinking about the wonders of printed news. I’ve been told that writing this would amount to preaching to the choir, as you are all obviously reading this, whether in print, online or on your smartphones. But hear me out.
Let’s agree that more news is better than less news. The better informed our neighbors, associates, relatives and public officials are, the better they will make decisions that affect all of us. The more we know about candidates’ positions, the wiser we’ll be in making choices on Election Day. For example, if the residents of a particular town feel strongly about preventing overdevelopment, they will easily be able to determine which candidates running for local office have a track record or position aligned 4with their wishes. Better-informed voters mean the community has a better chance of achieving a desirable outcome, raising their overall satisfaction. The printed newspaper is a key to the provision of that information. In times when the election of an executive in a county of more than 800,000 can be decided by a handful of votes, having a well-informed electorate makes a huge and positive difference.
I think we can also agree that a local news outlet is superior to any other source in reporting on what’s happening in our immediate surroundings and affecting our everyday lives. I certainly don’t want to read about the Baltimore City state’s attorney in the New York Times. I want my news to have a local perspective. A Baltimore reporter knows the Baltimore beat better than some carpetbagger reporter from out of town.
There are other reasons to read a newspaper regularly: staying on top of job opportunities, store openings, weather forecasts, warnings of upcoming road closures and construction projects, issues involving public safety, forthcoming entertainment events and even knowing the sports scores to discuss intelligently around the water cooler. Rather than dance around the topic any longer, I want to tell you exactly why I am writing this to you, The Baltimore Sun local choir.
We need to do better.
We need to show our Sun love.
Fun fact: I am on the libertarian side of the political spectrum and thus disagree with most of the opinions and leanings of our venerable daily editorial page. So what? The Sun is our paper, for better or worse. We get it day in, day out, no excuses. The writing and editing is top notch, the workmanship and craftsmanship excellent. The reporting is well-researched and presented, if not always balanced. The stories are important and the corrections few. Although we all have different views about people and events in our community, all things being equal, The Sun is still the best source for generally objective news coverage of our city and metro area.
It’s easy to think of printed newspapers as mere “objects.” Newsflash: Flesh and bone human persons work at The Sun, and, as we have just seen from the horror at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, journalists sometimes put their lives on the line to preserve our First Amendment rights. There are few jobs more important than providing citizens with factual information they need. In fact, our founding fathers determined that freedom of the press and free speech were so critical that ensuring their protection became very first amendment to our new country’s Constitution. Regardless of whether you agree with what you read in The Sun, you have the choice to read and research further and learn more to make up your mind. Everyone should.
What do you think will happen if the critical mass of subscribers drops below the point when it is no longer profitable to produce and distribute a printed daily? In my lifetime, I have seen the paper shrink like Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. But the printed paper has survived, and thank goodness! While the introduction of Craigslist and other forms of Internet advertising in the mid 1990s contributed to a major loss of revenue for printed newspapers and reduced the size of the paper, the false narratives that paper is a wasteful use of natural resources, that reading news on a computer (have you ever tried to “recycle” a computer?) is more “green” gained traction and further hurt print circulation.
Why is the printed news so vital? “We live in an era of impermanence, bombarded by short, ephemeral bursts of information and images,” writes Chris Harrold, vice-president and creative director of Mohawk Papers, and a nationally known expert on paper and printing. “As much as digital is the new normal, it is fleeting. In this context, all things analog have been imbued with a new sense of authenticity, gravitas and permanence.” If you read something online, there’s no guarantee the substance or even facts will not change in the future, and you will never again see what you just read. Also, according to Scientific American, reading the printed page rather than a digital screen boasts measurable benefits such as better short and long term comprehension, is more satisfying, and allows for better focus. And Two Sides America’s recent survey says that 73 percent of U.S. consumers feel that reading a printed piece is more enjoyable than reading on an electronic device.
The printed newspaper is more trustworthy and beneficial. Period.
Admittedly, I am biased toward the printed word, given my profession. Regardless of how you prefer to read your news, digital or printed, subscribers need to do our part and preach to those who do not understand, as we do, the importance of supporting our local newspaper.
Ask your friends, coworkers, vendors and neighbors if they have a Sun subscription, and, if not, suggest they look into it. We are implored every day to eat local and shop local. Let’s take it one more important step further. Let’s consume our news local.
Paula Fargo is the owner of Curry Printing; her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.