The age of the smartphone and tablet computer is well upon us. We will spare our readership the standard clichés explaining the unprecedented capacity of our generation to digitally consume and produce every kind of information. (i.e., “with just the touch of a button, you can…”)
Let’s just say that since the peak of American newspaper circulation in the 1990’s, we can now mull over the fact that print readership of the New York Times accounts for only half of the paper’s total audience (the rest is online). It’s been a long, often revenue-hemorrhaging road for the printed newspaper as it fights to compete with its own online edition, not to mention with the glut of other—usually digital—media forms available to us today.
When Occupy Wall Street was at its height in Manhattan, independent newspaper editor Arun Gupta began printing an occupiers’ newspaper, The Occupy Wall Street Journal. When asked whether the print parody of the prominent New York broadsheet was relevant, given the integral role of digital technology in spreading and sustaining the Occupy movement, he said, “You can pass a newspaper to someone on the street, but you can’t pass the Internet.”The same is true, we believe, for the Foghorn. While we have a healthy online presence, and while our staff and writers conduct most of our business electronically—articles are solicited, submitted, edited, and finally laid out on our computers—we all recognize the production of a printed final product is a major motivating force for our staff.
Aside from the personal satisfaction we get and the practical skills we develop in producing and distributing a tangible Foghorn most weeks for the USF populace to enjoy, there are less than sentimental rationales for a physical newspaper. It’s a matter of visibility and access. When a form of this same staff editorial ran in the April 22, 2010 issue, the staff saw the print edition of the Foghorn as the engine that sustained both the online version of the paper and the student news organization in general. Most of the content we produce is simultaneously published in print and online, while videos, photojournals, article comments, archives, and other Foghorn content lives exclusively on the web.
Were it not for having a physical edition go to print 11 times a semester, students would have no reason to visit, nor would they even be aware of, the Foghorn’s website. It would become, in the words of our journalistic predecessors, “obsolete”.
And while we will be the first the joke about a perceived lack of readership or student interest in the Foghorn, evidence proves otherwise. In addition to the assignments and projects we plan for ourselves, we also receive letters to the editor, advertisements from campus and organizations, and requests to cover events and topics of interest to USF students, among other things. Presumably, this influx of content from our reader base stems from a desire to actually see something of themselves run in the paper.
In 2012, we aren’t under the pressure to go completely digital that was apparently faced by the staff back then. Still, it’s nice to get the message out there that a print Foghorn is a necessary, if not really, really good, thing to keep around.