UNITED NATIONS. "DEATH OF NEWSPAPERS:" A PREMATURE PREDICTION BUT A USEFUL DISCUSSION

 

15 OCTOBER 2012

"DEATH OF NEWSPAPERS:" A PREMATURE PREDICTION BUT A USEFUL DISCUSSION

The announcement sounded alarmingly premature. Certain death of Print Newspapers is not an easily announced prediction. Yet someone had persuaded the U.N. Department of Public Information to use it -- perhaps as a shock treatment to attract an audience; perhaps due to a lack of actual professional experience. No one who sweated for a newspaper in his or her life would ever think of coolly uttering those words.

As the meeting gathered, however, its sense improved. The presentations were informed and the moderation attentive. For some reason, the original details on the website have been removed. So, fortunately, has been the ominous headline.

As we use an internal electronic version to give some of its details, we express appreciation to the talented and dedicated DPI staff that prepared it, particularly Hasan Ferdous, Chief of the Committee Liaison Unit of the Outreach Division.

Newspapers are deemed by most people under 40 as "impractical, inconvenient, environmentally unfriendly, and plain boring." Nowadays only one in 20 teens and one in 12 young adults read newspapers, she said.

Young people prefer to have their news on the go and the mobile technology facilitates it. Besides, digital news has made it easier for people to engage in two way communications, added Ms. Chavda.

But outside of the United States, there has been a growing newspaper industry in some countries, such as India, Brazil and Chile, said Ambassador Miculescu. She argued that advertisement revenue from print news would continue to overpower online advertisement revenue.

"The newspaper industry is coming to terms with a period of uncertainty and rapid technological change," said Ambassador Miculescu, "The newspaper is not dying. They're just reviving, if they know how to adapt to the new times."

Despite the differences, both sides showed concerns for the declining quality of news. "What ultimately matters is the information you're delivering and not the form through which you're delivering it," said Mr. Singh.

In the question and answer session ensued, the audience raised questions on different aspects of the issue, from the livelihood of journalism to the carbon footprint of the print media and its relation to the UN to the question of whether the media has fulfilled its function as a watchdog.

Commentator Mark Jurkowitz took the debate to a different level by raising the idea of "netizens, the democratization of information." He concluded that the news industry is yet to find the key to a smooth transition into the digital age, that is, a "digital model that works."

More than 100 participants, including U.N. staff members, resident journalists, and representatives from academia and civil society, attended an event entitled "The Death of Newspapers is Irreversible" on 10 September 2012 in New York Headquarters. As part of the discussion series "Point Counter-Point," the event was organized by the United Nations Academic Impact programme and moderated by Deputy Director of the Outreach Division of DPI, Ramu Damodaran.

Dr. Regina Marchi, Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University and Heena Chavda, a graduate student of New York University, formed a team that argued in favor of the extinction of print news. On the opposite side of the panel, Ambassador Simona-Mirela Miculescu of the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations and Fair Observer editor Atul Singh argued that newspapers would continue to exist. Mark Jurkowitz, who is Associate Director of the Pew Research Center, served as commentator.

Citing the dramatic downsizing of the newspaper industry in the United States, Dr. Marchi argued that the "generational shift" in how people get news would inevitably lead to the demise of print media.