Looking for a nice Hollywood fix a few weekends ago, I watched State of Play and enjoyed seeing a familiar subject come up in the plot line: the dichotomy between online and print journalism. At the beginning of the film, the seasoned reporter (Russell Crowe) is introduced to the reporter in charge of the newspaper’s blog. A young woman who is capable and eager, but doesn’t have the personal connections and experience of Crowe. And she never has a pen on hand. The plot thickens thanks to their investigative reporting that does not involve scouring the internet. Along the way, the eyes of the blogger are opened to see that ‘real reporting’ is about all the ‘offline’ work. As they are about the send their big story to print, Crowe asks his learning blogger if she’s sorry it’s not breaking online. She responds, “I figure when people read a story like this, they should get some ink on their fingers.”
While a big proponent of sustaining journalism in all its forms, I think many of the discussions around the death of print journalism miss the point precisely because they put online and print in two opposing corners. Perhaps State of Play is an extreme example, but it’s not alone. Online and print are not mutually exclusive, but obviously complement each other on many levels. Online content isn’t driving print to its death, but it does reflect changing habits of media consumption. Today content is more dynamic, coming to us non-stop from a vast array of sources. Rather than relying on one media source, we are now the creators of our own information circuit. Sure, the staggering loss of revenue in the newspaper industry is very real. But I believe this changing media landscape is prompting print to undergo an evolution, as it takes a cue from online content. And I hope that it, in turn, revitalizes some of the elements that give print so much value.