In a world where everyone who has a blog is a “writer,” everyone one with Instagram is a “model” and everyone on Etsy is a “small-business owner,” the search for arete and accountability has been like finding a paperback in a haystack.
So, why the volte-face back to print media?
According to Australian author and journalist Stuart Howie, in an article from the International News Media Association, there are a few specific reasons.
First: print equals trust.
According to Howie, “Research shows even Millennials, who have no affinity with traditional media, trust print more than other sources, particularly social media.”
Those same millennials bombarding your Facebook feed with selfies, “foodie” posts, and political arguments are actually getting their news from other sources.
“Digital gets our attention, but print gets our respect,” Howie stated.
Second: print is tactile.
“The tangibility of print ignites senses in a different way to what we see on a screen,” the author explained.
In other words, if you can feel it externally, you can process it internally.
Third: print is utilitarian.
This one didn’t make sense at first glance because what is more utilitarian than a smartphone?
You may have every piece of information available to you at the swipe of a finger with the Internet, but it’s up to you to sift through all of it to find the one piece that is actually relevant.
Print is much more direct. If you want to learn a recipe you buy a cookbook, and if you want local news, you pick up your local paper. It’s as simple as that.
Peg Bos, the president of the Clovis Museum, remarked, “It was vital for us to learn to read. It remains vital for us to continue reading the printed community newspaper. The publisher and reporters are identified and we are able to have direct communication with them. Historically that provided the ‘glue’ that helped establish and maintain our democracy. The Digital Age lacks integrity that requires the ‘glue.’”
Fourth: print is swag.
“In the digital world, everyone can be a publisher,” Howie said. “But print can offer quality and cachet that elevates it above the usual media noise.”
Noise, I think, is a great word for it.
For the most part, what we read online and through social media isn’t just fleeting and intangible but it’s also wrought with fake news and muddied with share after share after share, subsequently removing the reader further from the original source and usually creating more questions than answers.
With that said, Howie’s fifth and final reason for print being trendy?
“We process, retain, and recall information better via print,” Howie said.
Studies have shown that print is better for creating an emotional reaction and a desire for a product or service. Print marketing activates the ventral striatum (responsible for processes and motivation) of the brain more than digital media; and physical material was more real to the brain, having the ability to be categorized and processed, according to the article.
But what goes up must come down.
So with the rise of prints’ popularity, what’s up with digital?
According to “Erasing History,” an aptly-titled article from the Columbia Journalism Review, digital media has recently found itself in choppy waters.
When you think of the Internet, chances are you think of the “cloud” with every piece of information, every picture, every website that ever existed available at the click of a mouse.
But that isn’t necessarily the case.
For example, if an online news outlet goes out of business, its archives can disappear as well, according to CJR’s piece.
Digital data archivists are having to make seemingly harmless, but ultimately history-altering decisions such as: what is important enough to save (because though digital storage may seems vast, it has a limit like anything else) and whether or not to archive something like a banned book, fake news, or other censored material.
It all comes down to these archivists trying to paint a picture of our history on a website that has 30 petabytes of data dating back to 1996 called the Wayback Machine, and others like it.
Clay Shirky is a media scholar and author who in the early 2000s worked at the Library of Congress on the National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Project. He said, “After the obvious — presidential inaugurations or live footage of world historical events — we have to choose what to save.”
Frequently, according to the article, the Wayback Machine and other large digital archives find themselves holding the only extant copy of a given work on the public internet.
“This responsibility is increasingly fraught with political, cultural, and even legal complications,” the article stated.
Complications arise when that last copy is, say, a banned book.
One party may want that work removed from an archive while yet another may want it kept up for any number of constitutional reasons: freedom of speech, press, information, religion, and the like.
Luckily a bill adopted in 1939 gave record-keeping entities such as libraries the authority to challenge censorship because of the inherent responsibility archivists have to provide true and accurate information to the public.
According to the article, the Library Association Library Bill of Rights states, “books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.”
“When we consider that the internet is a library, and that the community it serves is all mankind,” the CJR article stated. “The responsibility of digital archivists acquires a gravity that is hard to overstate.”
To make matters worse for these digital history keepers, Rothenberg’s Law jokingly states, “digital data lasts forever, or five years, whichever comes first.”
So all of this hard work to preserve our internet history may be for naught.
Jeff Rothenberg, author of, “Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Information,” looks at the history of old media and sees a pattern of obsolescence after roughly five years with any type of media, be it CD-ROM, floppy disk, 8-track, etc.
In his essay, Rothenberg uses an example: his theoretical grandchildren, in 2045, find an old CD.
The contents of the media are instructions for the retrieval of his theoretical fortune.
So what will happen in this scenario? Will they be able to locate their grandfathers fortune?
Not in 2045. It would be nothing short of a miracle to find a piece of equipment to play the CD.
“Our digital documents are far more fragile than paper,” Rothenberg concluded. “In fact, the record of the entire present period of history is in jeopardy.”
Godspeed current and future record keepers, <p>godspeed</p>.