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BUKIDNON VIEWS: Embracing the Endangered

person access_timeTuesday, October 31, 2023 chat_bubble_outline0 comment

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/31 October) —  In an era where digital media reigns supreme, the satisfaction of holding a printed newspaper seems an antiquated delight. Call me old-fashioned, but the visceral sensation of flipping through its pages, diving into the stories it holds, brings an unparalleled connection to information that digital cannot replicate.

As a former journalist turned educator, I find solace in advocating for the traditional while acknowledging the evolving landscape of journalism.

Print newspapers globally, including the Philippines, have seen a drastic decline. The Pew Research Center reports a 57% drop in weekday newspaper circulation in the US since 2004. Additionally, the newspaper industry witnessed a 51% decrease in newsroom employees between 2008 and 2019.

Swift currents of digitalization, among others, are shaking the very foundation of news reporting. A confluence of factors may have brought this phenomenon to life.

The advent of the internet and digital technology drastically altered how people consume news. The immediacy and accessibility of online news sources may have shifted reader preferences. Many individuals turned to digital platforms for real-time updates, breaking news, and convenience.

In 2021, the Reuters Institute found that Filipinos increasingly relied on smartphones for news during the extended COVID-19 lockdown, reducing traditional media consumption, especially print. University of the Philippines’ Yvonne Chua noted that 61% sourced news from TV, 87% from online and only 16% from print. Print dropped further to 14% in the 2023 report.

This decline reflects in print newspaper sales as readers shift to reading news in more accessible devices. I should say, though, this only applies to those who have quality access to the internet.

Audiences now prefer quick, personalized content online, contrasting with the in-depth coverage of traditional newspapers. This shift, driven by the easy accessibility of online news, contributes to the decline in print newspaper readership and subscriptions.

The media industry’s economic challenges may be behind, too. The traditional newspaper model heavily relied on advertising revenue. But companies have redirected their ad spending to online advertising and social media platforms.

Consequently, newspapers suffered income losses.

Pew Research Center data revealed that print advertising revenue for newspapers fell from $46.2 billion in 2003 to $14.3 billion in 2018. This worsened during the pandemic, worldwide, including the Philippines. In Mindanao, we felt it with local newspapers’ less frequent and smaller circulation. Some eventually ceased publication.

Declining readership side by side with the costs of printing and distribution rendered the print format not profitable, therefore, economically unsustainable.

On the audience’s side, the younger generations have grown up in a digital-first environment. The reliance on smartphones, social media, and online news sources has led to a decreasing interest in print newspapers.

As a former print reporter, I’ve experienced this firsthand. Multimedia in digital news offers an engaging experience that print struggles to match. I’ve grappled with this as well. My journalism professors emphasized the irreplaceable value of in-depth reading – a lesson that resonates with me.

I am not sure if the advocacy for environmental sustainability – for paperless – has also affected the shift.

What I am sure of is that the political environment in which it works around may have affected newspapers. According to the 2023 Digital News Report, majority of adult Filipinos have come across people criticizing journalists or the news media (in general) in the country tagging politicians and ordinary folks as sources.

The high level of criticism is associated with low trust in the media in the Philippines, in general. The report showed there is a steady decline for interest in news among Filipinos, their continuing avoidance of news and the high degree of wariness when they talk about politics both online and offline.  

This can show the decline of print newspapers signifies more than the loss of a medium. It shows the erosion of an approach to information that encourages critical thinking and reflection. While digital media offers immediacy, it often sacrifices depth and comprehensive analysis. Pope Francis also warned against the perils of, in particular, social media: relationships reduced to algorithms, partisan propaganda, and hatred.

The speedy newsgathering to chase immediacy and quick consumption dilutes the very essence of thorough reporting. The stories produced through it went through impulsive mediation – thus, a grossly lopsided picture of reality.  

In a flood of information, it is tough to separate truth from falsehood. Anti-disinformation campaigns unintentionally fuel skepticism even towards credible sources like print newspapers.

As I advocate for the continued relevance of newspapers, I implore institutions to allocate budgets for print copies, supporting the struggling entities dedicated to community journalism. These papers, while facing challenges in sustainability, remain instrumental in addressing crucial developmental issues such as disinformation, mediocrity, and public apathy.

The appeal for a return to print media is not merely a nostalgic yearning, after all. It is a plea for balance and a recognition of the invaluable role newspapers play in providing a comprehensive view of the world. This is not to dismiss the digital sphere, but to emphasize that a symbiotic relationship between both digital and print media is essential in fostering an informed citizenry.

Call this my homage to the fundamental right to information and a testament to the pivotal role of newspapers in our ever-evolving media landscape.

As the public grapples with discerning truth from fiction, the decline of robust, fact-based journalism poses a threat to the very fabric of democracy. In an age where misinformation and disinformation spread like wildfire, the survival of reliable news sources is imperative for an informed and engaged citizenry.

Bukidnon Views is the opinion section of BukidnonNews.Net. The author is a volunteer editor of BukidnonNews.Net. He is a member of the Development Communication faculty of a state university. The insights he presented here are his personal views only. This piece first appeared in MindaNews.com. 

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