Slightly Off Center

That’s news to me: Print will go away

By Dennis Hinkamp

I’m far more concerned about journalism.

I’ve debated abortion with evangelicals and politics with demons of all afflictions, but I have never seen the hate, sarcasm and shaming as on both sides of the mask/no-mask issue. It is logic spiraling in on itself. It is like death threats against death threats. So, I’m done with writing about that.

I’m also sitting out another round of good cop, bad cop rallies. My father and uncle were both career police officers in St. Louis. My father made a nice middle-class living and put up with my hippie shenanigans until I matured enough to graduate from college. He and my uncle would be horrified by what is going on now. They retired without incurring or inflicting bullet wounds in what was a pretty tough city.

What I do want to write about is journalism. I haven’t watched TV news for more than 10 minutes at a time since 19ever. I was the high school newspaper editor who went straight into print journalism in college during the Watergate era. I and my fellow word people openly mocked the TV journalism side of the program. Not that photos and video aren’t key to how we experience the world, but do we really need a well-dressed visually gifted person to read to us?

On the self-deprecating side, here’s an old joke. Question: “Why are newspapers better than TV?” Answer: “You can’t swat a fly with a TV.” For the sake of journalistic accuracy, yes, you could. But it would be expensive and messy.

All journalism is expensive and messy now. Though I don’t watch it, I gather from the fecal storms on Twitter that the Democrats and Republicans each have their own 24-hour TV news channel now. If you are older than 60 you remember a time when television stations, all three of them, went off the air at some point in the evening. Given all the choices of distractions, these TV channels have had to ramp up the shock and entertainment content. This is a good infotainment business model, but not a great way to convey vital information. Throw in ratings and you have the perfect platform for incrementally eroding the truth.

I bought my first “eReader” thing 10 years ago when I read that the New York Times could afford to give every subscriber one for free for what it cost to print and deliver one Sunday edition of their paper. This makes sense. Cutting down trees, floating them down the river, pulping them, rolling the pulp into paper, putting ink on the paper, putting stacks of printed and cut paper into trucks and driving them to porches every morning is a glorious miracle, but probably not sustainable. Multiply this by all the newspapers and magazines in the country.

To all my peer group who love the look and feel of print spread across the table or their laps: I really do feel your yearning. But print on paper is going away. I love the large font size and bright screen for my failing eyes. Print will go away.

I am far more concerned that journalism is going away. You don’t have to dive too deep into psychology to comprehend that people are more likely to do bad things if they think nobody is watching. Local journalism entertains but it also pushes back against bad actors. Reliable journalism is essential to democracy. Whether in print, on a device or on the radio: Support local journalism.

I know none of this is very funny or off center but, well, look out the window. Even sports writers are tackling more socially relevant topics.


Dennis Hinkamp wishes you serenity wherever you can find it. If you all have to go out to eat for altruistic reasons, do so. He just won’t join you.

This article was originally published on July 1, 2020.