Editorial #831: In defence of print journalism

By , Editor-in-Chief

To my mind, the role of any journalist, whether student or otherwise, is to inform, scrutinise those in power and offer new information. What is most important, however, is shedding light on what has previously been kept in the dark. 

It has been a long few weeks for news in Durham. From uncovering the screenshots that led to society bans, reporting on the expulsions of two students for sexual misconduct and racist remarks, and discovering that, in five years, almost 100 incidents of rape were reported at Durham, Palatinate has shown how vital journalism is in exposing these stories. Sexual assault, abuse, racism, antisemitism, homophobia and discrimination should not be kept in the dark any longer, and it is only through disclosing these accounts that we can begin to create change.

Whilst Palatinate is able to bring you these stories online, as a student paper, the presence on campus that our print edition offers us – to be found in colleges, the library, cafes and restaurants- which is free for anyone to pick up and take away, is unique, and often, the first way that many students engage with Palatinate at all. 

Palatinate has shown how vital journalism is in exposing these stories

Aside from the critical skills students – like myself – can gain when they learn to lay up and produce a physical publication, Palatinate is also an activity that students sign up for. We have hundreds of applicants a year, and if you are reading this now, we welcome all students to contribute to any and all of our sections. Not only are we an organisation that holds the University to account, we are also a society that forms an important respite amidst the pressures of University life.  Students want to be here, and they want to be with like-minded individuals. Personally, I am never happier than when I’m with my friends at Palatinate.

If I had it my way, my personal tuition fees of £9250 would go towards Palatinate, enough to fund its entire year. And if I really had it my way, I wouldn’t be doing my final year online. But this is not a perfect world, and we are Generation Zoom. You only need to look at this edition’s news coverage to realise this: the number of Covid-19 cases now exceeds 1,000 in Durham, while a report alleges that northern students are subject to physical and verbal abuse by fellow students in our community. 

We’ve lost CDs, DVDs, maps and photographs to the digital age.  It is our mission to make sure that we do not lose print papers as well. 

If I had it my way, my personal tuition fees would go towards Palatinate

The decline of print is not inevitable. When the Kindle first arrived, critics and cynics decried the loss of the physical presence of books. Yet still we pack bags heavier than needed because there is a satisfaction in turning a physical page and seeing the progress you’ve made. 

Just like a Kindle isn’t the same as a book, reading a paper online isn’t the same as holding a physical copy in your hands. When you have newspapers in print, your eyes find stories that you think are interesting but that you weren’t looking for. 

Indeed, the excitement of seeing your name in print never fades, and the mere fact you can keep an edition forever reinforces the respect and appreciation you have for the work that goes into making it possible. Unlike a website that you can update whenever you spot a mistake, once out in print, a story cannot be changed. Print therefore holds us to a journalistically higher standard. And to top it all off, there is something very sentimental about a physical paper, which can cement a Durham identity. We are our printed newspapers, and we are also the 72-year history that lead us to this point.

We are our printed newspapers, and we are also the 72-year history that lead us to this point

While one day you may be able to download Palatinate as an app, will the quality of the content remain the same? And will we even be able to call it a newspaper? Now is not the time to limit journalism in any of its forms. As John Oliver said in his defence of print journalism: “We’ve grown accustomed to getting our news for free. And the longer that we get something for free, the less willing we are to pay for it. But sooner or later we are either going to have to pay for journalism, or we are all going to pay for it.” If all the leading student newspapers across the country are still going to print and we are not, will we actually be able to call ourselves a leading student paper?

We at Palatinate believe an appetite for a physical newspaper is still there. For these reasons, we will continue to make the argument for print journalism. 

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One thought on “Editorial #831: In defence of print journalism

  • I am an Interational student from a country without freedom of press, and since coming to the UK it seems as though many people here take it for granted. It is a slippery slope when journalism starts being scaled back, newspapers going out of print is never good news. The student union needs to actively prop up societies which scrutinise it in order to remain at the very least a semi-honest institution. Physical media is permanent and should be here to stay

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