As we move further into the digital age, readers and the media enjoy the limitless content and convenience of online news, but does that mean that printed papers will soon meet their demise?
As of April 26, 2008 The Capital Times, a six-day-a-week Madison newspaper, will move its content completely online, with two weekly printed publications supplementing the Web site. According to Dave Zweifel, The Capital Times editor since 1983, the change is the result of eroding print circulation.
According to newspapers.com, there are more than 2,900 daily and weekly newspapers published across the United States. The National Newspaper Association reports that nine out of 10 weeklies also have an online editions. The average monthly audience for online news grew by more than 3.6 million in 2007, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
Online newspapers have a large audience, but does this threaten the future of print? And if so, would this be a good or a bad thing?
"There are lots of places where (print) newspaper readership is going up. Places where they don't have access to the Internet," said Marty Kaiser, editor of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Unsurprisingly, Kaiser believes that many people still prefer a printed newspaper.
Sophomore Sean McGraw agreed. "Print news should definitely stay around. There are a lot of people who don't have internet access," he said. "It is easier for (many) people to pick up a paper."
Junior Meredith Locke believes that age will play a big part in how long print newspapers last. "The older generation is scared of technology. That's why print will be around for awhile; there are people that don't know how to use it (technology)," she said.
But many students say that online publications better suit their lifestyles.
"I don't have much time to sit down and read a newspaper," said freshman Alexandra Leykin. "If I want to read the news I just go online and check, there's no room for it (print) anymore."
Freshman Jillian Meyers agreed that as a student, online news is more accessible. "There's no time to sit and read the paper when I'm running to class at 9 a.m." Meyers said that growing up it was a family tradition to sit and read the newspaper in the morning, but that she doesn't see herself doing it in the future.
Many media professionals agree that their business is moving to the Web.
"Much news coverage has already migrated to the Web," said UWM journalism professor Jeff Smith. "Traditional newspapers are losing advertising and circulation. Newspapers have to compete within the new digital world or die."
Although he believes this may be the future of newspapers, Smith sees benefits to both formats, noting that printed copies garner a lot of pass-along readership. On the other hand, he says printed news can't compete with the immediacy of the Web. "Online news can be served while it's hot and can include video," he noted
The wide-range of media that can be used to tell an online story is something that appeals to journalists.
"Stories can be delivered in words, still pictures, slide shows, with audio and video," said Jill Geisler, group leader of Leadership and Management Programs for the Poynter Institute. "Links can take readers to related information. Journalists can connect with readers, readers can contribute content, stories can be updated and reporting is not confined to a traditional production cycle."
There is also a lot more room for content online, Kaiser said. "We produce a lot of information and a lot of it doesn't end up in the newspaper, but ends up online. There are no limitations online."
But the shift could bring bad news to some journalists, who will be edged out as staffs and newsrooms shrink.
"Sadly, this will depress employment, at least in the short term," said Geisler.
At The Capital Times, Zweifel sees first had the effects of an online switch. "We've had one of the biggest newsroom staffs in the country for a paper our size -- 65. Several jobs directly involved in preparing paper for print will no longer be needed. Although it is still too early to give solid numbers, the newsroom will probably be around 47 staffers." Zweifel also said that between the pressroom, mailroom and circulation, The Capital Times will lose about 10-12 workers.