In praise of newspapers

When the power and possibilities of social media continue to amaze it is perhaps unfortunate that the beauty of newspapers can be overlooked. Like many, I can be awestruck by the ease, speed and reach of twitter and facebook, but for all that I still believe that the printed press has a place in our daily lives and we should not let it go.

Last month, for three whole days, the only news alerts and facebook notifications an acquaintance of mine received were about the dentist from Minnesota and the fate of a much loved lion in the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Because she follows numerous conservation groups and friends on volunteer work overseas, her twitter feed was similarly an outpouring of bile for the hunters and devastation for the dwindling lion populations around the world.

Even accepting that she will always stand with the conservationists, isn’t this unhealthily one-sided? In 140 characters there is rarely any nuance, no time to reflect on deeper consequences of a shaming hunters and banning trophy hunting and certainly no room to consider the issues for the local communities faced with the threat of lions on a daily basis.

At the same time, what else did she miss in the world? Did everything on the planet, in Scotland, in Edinburgh stop for Cecil? No it didn’t.

Pick up a newspaper, on the other hand, and while it may well have a political or social position – left, left of centre, right of centre and so on – most still provide a platform for a counter point of view.  In the interests of balance (and legal responsibility) most news stories will still include a rebuttal or opposing statement. With more space and time, a newspaper can also provide investigation, in-depth analysis and well-argued commentary.

In the case of Cecil, these newspaper features would highlight, at the very least, that the furor around hunting is not a simple, black and white issue for the local economy or the local farmer.

In one single newspaper you are also likely to read a number of diverse stories. There will be important stories, uplifting stories, debate, information and just things to make you smile. You’ll learn about what’s happening locally and nationally and although you can argue that this is all online, you have to go and find it.  A newspaper presents it all to you in one simple package.

Social media allows you to choose your news settings according to your interests, and because the world of cookies and clever technology the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple all know your likes and dislikes, there is a potential danger that the news you receive is so tailored it becomes increasingly narrow and therefore limiting.

Produced daily, newspapers carry a great deal more, much of which you might not think you are interested in until you read it. Keep open mind.  Read a paper. Long live the printed press!