Commentary

Why print is still relevant in the digital age

Who really controls what you see and read on the internet and social media?

By Clint Parker

Recently, I was reminded why print news is still relevant to our world. Much ado has been made of how newspapers are dinosaurs from a bygone era and that nobody receives their news that way anymore. Well, our thousands of readers would disagree with you, but that’s not why print is still relevant in the digital age.

No, that’s not my point at all. In fact, we at the Tribune/Leader are making the most of the digital world as we speak. We have a redesigned website that has new stories almost each and every day. We have more than 14,000 followers on Facebook and we are closing in on 2,000 followers on our Twitter account. We haven’t even mentioned the other social media outlets we continue to foster and advance, but, again, that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

No, today what made me think of writing a commentary on the relevance of print media in the digital age was the fact that I was trying to post a press release from the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook. The press release was about two suspects wanted for questioning in regard to some break-ins.

However, Facebook would not allow me to post to the newspaper’s wall. Whether it was a technical glitch on their end, or something on our end, I really don’t know. As far as I could tell, I wasn’t in Facebook jail (which is a whole other subject) for anything we’d done or posted. Finally, once I was able to attach a picture and add some text, I hit the share button only to have Facebook say that my post was under review. Huh? Never have seen that before.

All this Facebook drama reminded me that while I was still the editor and publisher of the print version of the newspaper, I wasn’t in control of any of our electronic media, be it social media, websites or whatever electronic. Everything was at the benevolent grace of the internet gods and publishers. I was nothing more than an editor and content provider. If the powers that be didn’t like what I had to say they could stick me in social media jail, ban me from boosting a post or just boot me altogether.

Am I a conspiracy theorist? Have I wandered into the land of the nuts and flakes? I think if we look at recent events to a number of alternative media sources, I’m not the first person in the media to realize this fact. There are larger media outlets out there that have incurred the wrath of the internet gods and have been banished from a number of platforms on the internet.

You say, “Well, these are just a number of whacked-out crazy people whom the controllers of Facebook, YouTube and other social media outlets are trying to protect us from their crazy conspiracy theories and fake news reporting.”

Well, I say thank you almighty social media gods for your abundant grace and your salvation from those who would do us evil with their free speech! We cannot praise you enough for your almighty wisdom in saving our weak minds which cannot think for ourselves. We need your all-powerful greatness to see the truth (as you see it) and to keep us from all harm. NOT!

What we have is censorship “pure and simple” in the name of political correctness and all that’s holy! Today, it’s a few fringe news media outlets that we’ve been saved from, but what about tomorrow? Whose speech will be unacceptable for public consumption?

Now, I’m very aware that these large social media platforms are private companies and I’m all for the government keeping their hands off private companies. So, I’m not here to say the government ought to step in and force these social media companies to open their platforms to all groups, regardless of what crap they have to say.

However, I think we ought to have the right to hear their crap if we want to, and determine if we wish to believe it or not. I think that these groups should be able to say what they want on social media. Put a warning on it before you see it if need be, but they are censoring those voices with their bans and their algorithms.

These politically incorrect news outlets only exist because they have a following. So, who am I to say they shouldn’t have a following? They are providing an alternative to what’s been labeled as the mainstream media. Do the mainstream media need an alternative? I think they do. Just watch the nightly news and compare the big three network news outlets and see that 80 to 90 percent of their coverage is homogenous and sponsored by the same exact corporate behemoths with their commercials.

Computers revolutionized the news industry by allowing little publishers like me to have access to a method to produce my own newspaper. That same technology now, some say, threatens to end the print news media. However, the First Amendment guarantees me or anyone the right to shoot off our mouths, and cover news stories. But by what means? Internet, social media, print?

The whole thing reminds me of the poem by the German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller about the Nazis before World War II. It goes:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Well, I’m speaking up now. With the large social media platforms, we are regulated as to what we are allowed to say and I for one thank God for the printed word over that of the social media platforms, because I believe the printed word will always be relevant to a free society.

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