Journalism is an integral part of society. It goes way beyond merely informing us of current affairs but, in the words of 20th century novelist Ray Bradbury, ‘journalism keeps us planted in the earth’. It reminds us of our humanity and forces the societal gaze upon to the cracks in the world we would rather ignore. Yet, the world of journalism is changing. The digital revolution means that the stability that was once associated with print journalism is changing the landscape of how we receive our news. The death of print is upon us, giving us in an insight into an entirely digital dominated-future.
Established in 1986, The Independent held a unique position within UK newspapers. In a world of journalistic political partisan, the paper prided itself on its independence from party alignment. With its commitment to social and economic liberalism, its pro-market stance attracted readership from liberalists to ex-Guardian readers who were disgruntled at Labour’s economic policies.
In the last twelve months alone we have seen two landmark publications significantly have to change their approach to print. Music magazine NME’s announcement that they were to become free publication after circulation had dropped from over 250,000 copies in the seventies to less than 15,000 in 2015 was a foreboding sign of the failures of print. The Independent’s announcement that it is to cease its printed publication is another falling domino pushed by the hands of the internet.
We live in a 24/7 world where information is available at the touch of a fingertip. The death of print journalism has been an inevitable future that papers have tried to out run. But, for The Independent, that race has come to an end. With the paper’s circulation down from its peak daily readership of 400,000 in 1990 to only 50,000 copies in 2015, its decision to become a digital platform only is an all or nothing approach to tackle the digital revolution: if you can’t beat it, join it.
The whole stability of British journalism has been raptured. With papers like The Guardian and The Sun’s circulation falling by 1.83% and 2.53% respectively, the question of how long this papers can keep running is no longer a question of rhetoric, but a question of when.
The matter of the future of print journalism doesn’t stop at the issue of journalism itself, but is reflective of our ever changing society. We demand information fast, concise and – most significantly – free. The Independent’s announcement that they are to become an online-platform only was quickly followed by the news of serious job cuts. The Guardian reported that up to 100 out of 160 Independent journalists are expected to lose jobs as well of reports of drastic salary cuts. The National Union of Journalists have claimed that the switch to digital is being ‘made on the cheap’.
But this isn’t a trend happening in print journalism alone. The digital revolution has changed the way we obtain our news, music, film and even how we form relationships. In the 21st century where the idea of streaming and social media is so normalised, this fact hardly needs stating. However, when we stop for a moment and detach ourselves from the rapid pace of this revolution (not only digital but social, too), then it becomes apparent that the world as we know it is undergoing a transformation.
Perhaps the death of The Indy’s print days strikes so poignantly with many of us because it provides us with a snippet to the world of the future. When we still have something as nostalgic as a paper, we can dismiss ideas of the digital revolution to the side. When, however, something so engraved into our Tescos shelves as a newspaper becomes something that can only be accessed online, then the fact that we are becoming a race that is reliant on technology is indisputable.
In demanding that we attain all our music, films, news and media for free, we are stealing people of their right for fair reward for their work. Just because, online, we cannot see the person behind the work, it doesn’t mean that this person ceases to exist. Our demands that everything should be provided for us at the click of a button reveals a society which is becoming increasingly complacent, where money comes before our obligations to others.
The death of print journalism means a lot more than just the end of the daily inkies, but symbolises the triumph of the internet in modern society. Viva la revolution.
Words by Juliette Rowsell