Importance of Newspapers and how newspapers changed the world

Imagine living in rural city in 1945, people you know have gone to war – you wake up in the morning and find out everything that happened by reading the local newspaper. It was the Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Google of the time, newspapers were the life blood of society.

There are, of course, still newspapers in circulation today, but we don’t depend on them to stay connected and up to date in the same way we did in the 20th Century. For the average reader during the WWI era, newspapers were the best and most reliable option for up to date information. And, although nothing was completely safe from factual error and they did not have much choice in terms of how they got their news, many people saw their newspapers as being the most trustworthy way to stay informed.

Editorial in Newspapers vs. Reporting

Now that the popularity of newspapers has declined, most readers do not understand the difference between editorial content vs. News. In the simplest form, A news story reports the facts about something that happened a task for the reporter. On the other hand, editorial is the “opinion” the columnists or writes have most of the times aligning with the newspapers stand.

In todays day and age, the importance of editorial in newspapers does not have a strong case, we need more reporting vs. editorial, why? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc… is the modern-day editorial, it’s where everyone shares their opinion freely and doesn’t need to justify their view with facts. On the other hand, social media is a terrible place to get fact-based reporting. Major social platforms have had to add features like fact detecting and disclosing conflicts of interest to make sure readers do not confuse opinion from news.

Newspapers as freedom fighters.

My favourite movie is The Post, a story about the pentagon papers (the involvement of the US[DT1]  in the  Vietnam War and earlier in French Indochina back to the 1940s and the end of World War II) the New York Times and Washington Post published confidential papers that triggered the chain that led to Nixon’s resignation.

It was the move that turned the Washington Post from a small regional paper to a national newspaper, every paper in the US published the papers citing the Washington Post being the paper that published the original transcripts. This scene from the movie is the best, the way that Ben Bradlee responds with a firm no is why newspapers are important.

William Rehnquist from the office of legal counsel and justice: yes sir Mr. Bradley I have been advised by the secretary of defense that the material published in the Washington Post this morning contains the information relating to the national defense of the united states and bears a top-secret classification as such the publication of this information is directly prohibited by the espionage act title 18 of the United States Code section 793 as the publication will cause irreparable injury to the defense interests of the United States I respectfully request that you publish no further information of this character and advise me that you have made arrangements for the return of these documents to the department of defense.

Ben Bradlee, Managing Editor at The Washington Post:  well thank you for the call Mr. Rehnquist but I am sure you understand I must respectfully decline I appreciate your time

Very apt that the Washington Posts newest tagline is “Democracy dies in darkness

Newspapers are part of history

The New York Times has a good archive of important moments that changed the world and how it was reported. Some of my favorites are the assassination of Lincoln, 9/11, the day the berlin wall fell and 8th December 1961 when they published the news that Tanganyika was independent.

Here are some screenshots of the Times Archive, an interesting tool for the history buffs.

Newspapers in their original format of newsprint way to conserve important history, many papers were lost in fires, floods and war. Essentially wiping out the history and essence of a place for future generations, for the ones that survived are a time capsule of the world in that time.  

With the progress of technology, newspapers are now saved in multiple servers across the world protected by failsafe technology (Thank you Google and Amazon Web Services). It is now easier to access history faster and more reliably by searching the internet. Archive.org is a modern time capsule for websites.

Importance of newspaper design and layout

Newspaper Design and layout is important, it has evolved over years. From the column format to the modern digital news site. The once long pages of special sections are now interactive content on news sites.

The front page went from being the news that happened yesterday to the news that’s happening in the now, content recommendation engines tell you what to read after you finish your story versus having to skip to page 30 to read your favorite film review.

Newspapers are designed to make content accessible, with digital technology this has resulted in newspapers rethinking mediums moving from words to videos and audio. Most major news sites have a video section and host podcasts to deliver news to their audiences. Newspapers were never about the medium but the concept, bringing news together.

I watched the movie “The Social Dilemma” showing how large social media companies work to keep audiences returning to their content and getting them addicted to their content. It was the design of social media that won the audiences over not only the content. From a business standpoint, editorial, product, design teams need to understand that they are in the business of keeping audiences for as long as possible -once it was done by having all the content in one place, but now it’s personalizing content for each and every reader.

Final Thoughts

Newspapers are no longer “papers”, my favourite anniversary front page is from the Toronto Sun which said “the little paper that grew they called us” Newspapers have grown up, from black and white typewritten ink papers to color and image filled papers to video rich sites and podcasts. Newspapers have tried to keep up with their audiences but have a hard time competing for advertising revenue, audiences are used to free content that was paid for by advertisers.

“You only realize value things once you’ve lost them” the same could be said for the news industry, once we realize the importance of news, that is when I regret to think it will be too late. So how can you help the industry? Subscribing to your local paper, it is those papers that go first – when people stop buying ads in their local paper or stop subscribing to their papers (it could also be buying a digital ad or subscription). The other way to support news organizations is to donate to organizations like the CAJ who empower future generations of journalists.

I am writing this series as part of National Newspaper week, I work for a publisher but I have loved news even before I got into this industry. I used to take pictures at events, protests and where the story was – many people still know me as the photographer or reporter but that’s a story for another day!

I have also enabled comments for this post something I normally don’t but I want to hear what people have to say


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