Across the country, print media outlets are failing at an alarming rate. Everyday a flood of daily newspapers announce massive cut backs or imminent closures. In Michigan, various papers have been forced to reinvent themselves in order to stay afloat. The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press and the Flint Journal all have cut back on delivery and printing in favor of online content. But they have faired considerably better than other U.S. papers, which have been forced to stop their presses and close their doors.
For anyone who has been paying attention, this is a frightening, although not surprising trend. The newspaper industry, and the all-American ideals that it stands for, have been around for a very long time.
I have always been a champion of newspapers and until recently, was completely appalled at the notion that any paper would go exclusively online. But the truth is that view is no longer realistic and newspapers, while providing a vital service, simply just cannot keep up with the speed at which the rest of the world moves.
And The North Wind, just like other newspapers across the country, must learn to adapt to a rapidly changing market or be left in the dust. Although people are always going to want to know what is going on at NMU, it is time we re-think how that information is presented.
In reality, it would be pretty tough for The North Wind to completely go under like larger, non-college newspapers have. As a student newspaper, it doesn’t have to seek a profit and has a captive readership, which it won’t be losing anytime soon. There is no deathwatch for The North Wind on the horizon, but it can’t be immune forever.
What The North Wind lacks is the technology to effectively present content in a format that is conducive to the desires of an Internet driven generation. Of course, all of The North Wind articles are currently available online, but that Web site leaves a lot to be desired. It contains little visual content and provides no instant news gratification, something television and the Internet have made students accustomed too.
This presents an obvious problem. A Gallup poll reported that 31 percent of adults will seek out news from an Internet source and 40 percent will read a local newspaper and these numbers are getting closer together all the time. Northern students, who are equipped with laptops and wireless Internet access are no exception to that rule, and are even more likely to seek web-based news.
Next year, as editor of The North Wind, it is my goal and my hope that the paper can make the transition towards more, and better, online content. The addition of multimedia, like student-produced video, to accompany the stories found in the print edition, will enrich the experience of Web site visitors. There are other options, like photo slideshows of campus events and exclusive online stories, including breaking news and better NMU athletics updates in real time. With the development of a better Web site, The North Wind can create a level of interactivity never found in the print publication. Northern students have the talent and the campus has the resources and facilities to make all these aspirations a reality.
Plenty of influential, significant journalism is taking place totally on the Internet as of late. And there is no reason that The North Wind can’t do the same and still fulfill the desires of a computer-driven generation. I know that decades-old traditions cannot be changed overnight, and I would be deeply saddened if a print version of The North Wind ever ceased to exist, but it’s time to jump completely on the Internet bandwagon.