In casual online conversation, I recently saw reference to a daily print newspaper at Oregon State University. At first I recalled stories of college papers, and then it hit me: why the hell are college newspapers still being printed on paper?
For years we’ve watched and talked about the implosion of traditional media outlets including the dead-tree newspaper. Whereas newspapers once served as the cornerstone of news both local and global, they’re now viewed as an ineffective means for delivering the news. The logistics of the print newspaper cycle, coupled with the economic realities of a world in which global news travels at the speed of the internet, make the traditional print distribution model obsolete and financially unsustainable.
Note that I differentiate between the print newspaper and journalism. Journalism is a practice; newspapers are a delivery mechanism.
Colleges ought to be focusing on teaching journalism and doing so in an appropriate manner which will best prepare students for life in the post-university “real world”. Teaching students how to produce a print newspaper is teaching them to be obsolete. Students should be learning electronic distribution through modern content management systems.
Future journalistic success won’t come from print newspapers; the reporters who will become notable will be those who can publish quality work rapidly through electronic means while using social media tools for two-way relationships with their audience. That is what should be taught at colleges.