Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Print forever

Wayne Janes, a senior Toronto Sun staffer, responds to a comment sent to TSF following our "Call us silly" posting:

"I want to respond to the anonymous writer who took issue with your 'Quebecor rhetoric' comment re: Paul Berton's take on the LFP dumping its Sunday issue.

"The only part of the phrase that was wrong was 'Quebecor' - or, rather, not wrong but misleading. The rhetoric comes from hundreds, thousands of sources and all Quebecor does is follow lock-step.

"Newsprint media is NOT dead, but it is changing and in some cases radically. Anyone who believes newspapers are dead is just plain shortsighted. Other than the town crier or smoke signals, there hasn't been a single mass communication medium that has died because of newer technology. Books (paper between hard covers) are still top sellers 400 years after the invention of the printing press - despite radio, and TV, and the movies, and computers and e-books.

"Radio will kill books and newspapers. The movies will kill radio. TV will kill the movies. The Internet will kill everything. Newspapers are dead, blah-de-blah-blah-blah. All these things were said, are being said, every day.

It's not only boring, it's wrong.

"Imagine 9/11 without newspapers. Imagine a future 9/11 without newspapers. TV and the Internet can convey the immediate shock of such an event, but we need the space and the distance, the words and the pictures, that newspapers can provide to help us absorb and understand, if we can, that kind of horror. No website can, nor will ever be able to, do that.

"People will always want a paper they can read in a coffee shop, on the streetcar, in the bathroom. They want crossword puzzles and comics and quizzes and someone who is as confused as they are but can try to explain their world to them. They will always want something they can hold in their hands. There's an intimacy to reading a newspaper that you can't get from a computer screen and this intimacy will become more important, not less, as time goes on.

"The response of radio to the new medium of TV was to stop trying to be all things to all people and go after niche markets. TV is doing the same. When you've got 500 channels to choose from, the Food Network doesn't seem so silly. The Toronto Sun would do exceedingly well as a sports and entertainment newspaper, with detailed and in-depth coverage of both - as long as it poured the proper resources into it.

"Newspapers are trying to transfer their 'newspaper' to the Internet whole hog - it doesn't work. Nobody wants to read a newspaper on a computer screen, not even 14-year-olds, who seem to be calling the shots.

"The Internet is a different medium, as different as TV is from radio, and will have its own purposes. Meanwhile, newspapers will always be with us, albeit with their own different purpose.

Wayne Janes"

Thank you for your e-mail, Wayne.

One more time: "There's an intimacy to reading a newspaper that you can't get from a computer screen and this intimacy will become more important, not less, as time goes on."

Exactly, but what you need for print media to survive are focus, commitment and adequate resources to get the job done daily.


  1. Same guy (editor at Southern Ontario daily between 40-50 years old).

    I honestly hope you're right (obviously I do, my job likely depends on it), but you're being pie in the sky if you think print will survive the Internet era the way it survived TV or radio.
    Computers get smaller and smaller, a monitor's resolution is good enough now to replicate a newspaper.
    My biggest hope is newspapers can survive because we've embraced technology and captured that audience.
    The news "paper" is gonna die whether we like it or not. If we survive, it's because we're a credible news source, not a news "paper". Anyone who believes otherwise is just kidding themselves.

    In 5 years, you'll be bringing you laptop to the toilet, not your news "paper".

  2. Screw 5 years. When the news on my iPhone is more up to date than anything in print, the only reason I'd take any newspaper into the toilet would be on the off chance there was no loo roll in there.

    Print is dead, regardless of how focused, committed or adequate any newsroom might be.