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Guest Column: The shifting sands of time and its impact on news consumption

09-October-2017
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Guest Column: The shifting sands of time and its impact on news consumption

Print media is the oldest form of mass media and therefore serves as a basic tool for mass communication, and for storing and broadcasting of information and knowledge. The printing process in India found its way from Goa in 1550 by Spanish Coadjutor, Brother John de Bustamante, also known as Indian Gutenburg.

News media in terms of drafting, framing and presenting news might have changed, but the whole idea of holding the folded sheets of paper featuring information from all round the world still prevails. Even today about 70 per cent of the population start their day with a newspaper. Being the oldest form of news, people are habituated to read print media and have been keeping the tradition alive despite advances in technology. Ever since digital media evolved, it has been giving tough competition to print media and has also become one of the most popular sources of information.

It is no secret that media in general has been evolving over the years and has now reached a point where people find digital media more convenient than print media. In the interest of time, people now absorb news provided to them from various social media platforms from around the world. For instance, now people are in the habit of first picking up their mobile phones in the morning as opposed to newspapers in the past. Twitter and Facebook are apps where people look for something new that interests them every morning.

Fake News vs. Real News
By providing the audience with timely news, digital media has become everyone’s preferred choice in today’s day and age. This is no doubt an effective way of encouraging the youth to constantly be in touch with world events. But at the same time, it also has many cons unknown to most of us. A lot of the content that we end up reading on social media websites or through apps is, in fact, factually untrue as it is published simply for sensationalism. Because of the fast-paced world that we live in, some news apps trend to prioritize sensationalism over facts. Moreover, apps provide the bare minimum information with little or no creativity in presenting it to a potential reader.

There is a higher risk of plagiarism with content that is posted online because of its sheer accessibility to the masses. Various media sites these days tend to copy the information posted by different people and end up taking credit for it. Other digital companies either buy the content from a writer or plagiarise the information for their site. The concept of fabricated news is not new; it dates back to 1925 when Hitler dictated his book named Mein Kampf. The technique was used by “the Jews” to blame Germany’s loss in World War I, claimed Hitler.

2016 saw the growing potential of fake news to immediately reach subscribers numbering over 160 million in WhatsApp, 148 million Facebook users and over 22 million Twitter users. Some of the fake news that trended as a result includes ‘UNESCO declared PM Modi best Prime Minister’, ‘UNESCO declared Jana Gana Mana best national anthem’, ‘New bank notes having a GPS chip to detect black money in India’ etc.

Where does that leave the print newspaper?
Through digital media, news is no longer a crisp piece of paper that we wait for at our doorsteps early in the morning. Print media can become stale because of its lack of timeliness, yet one cannot deny that it remains one of the most coherent and reliable ways of obtaining news. Though we have several technologies that have developed around us and are quick at keeping us updated, none of us know where the news is being generated from and how factually correct it is. Print media may not have the audience as it did in the earlier times but one cannot deny the fact that the efficiency and effort that is put into publishing a single newspaper is an art in itself.

We all consume our news differently but the one thing that unifies us all is that we want our news to come from a trustworthy source—one where we can see the effort being put into generating the right kind of information that the audience demands. Even today, many people prefer reading print media as there is a lot more to consume than just the headlines and the summary of a story. Keeping the tradition of print media alive is not only essential to preserving an art but also receiving well rounded, researched information every day. This will not only help the audience enhance their reading skills but also improve their diction and vocabulary with the immense knowledge that they can imbibe through print media.

India has, slowly but steadily, made a shift to a more technological advanced mode of news consumption. Not only does one rely on their gadgets for news, but also most begin their day with tweets and live updates. News comes in many forms—be it a photo series on Instagram, or even short video on Facebook, or the now popular notification from news apps. As we approach a more accessible world, it is important that the youth also participate in the tradition of print media in however way possible. Hence the truth remains that despite all the technological advances around us, the newsprint or the humble newspaper is here to stay and will only continue to grow despite the challenges thrown at it.

In the tussle between digital media for news and print newspapers for news, it is evident that both have their pros and cons. The truth is that both are addressing a distinct need gap in human evolution and will hence find undeniable potential for growth respectively. The newspaper leads over digital when it comes to news authenticity, packaging, continuity, detailing, regimen and many such qualities. This is clearly evidence of the massive growth potential it presents in an evolving economy like India.

The author is the Founder of Paperboy, which provides free online newspapers and magazines for web, iOS and android platforms.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com.

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