Sep 222009
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

The newspaper industry hasn’t been doing so hot recently. This saddens me. I thought that we’d run out of trees long before newspapers died. You win this round, nature. Still, I’m really excited for round two — cars vs. atmosphere.

In the absence of newspapers, we’ll be getting our news either from television or the Internet. For most college-aged folks, this won’t really be a change. The Collegian mostly exists as a shell for Sudoku and RamTalk, and, of course, for people such as myself to provide content that is marginally more entertaining than whatever your instructor is yakking about.

But for the rest of the world, we’re talking about a real, culture shock. The Internet is scary and people are always trying to steal your money, and there’s no credibility or fact-checking going on. Television is far more trustworthy. Infomercials, for example, will smile before robbing you.

Television also has caught on to the early secret of newspapers success — yellow journalism. See, more than 20 years ago and hence beyond all memory, newspapers would just make up headlines to sell newspapers. Sounds awesome, right? Instead of “H1N1 may pose health threat” you’d get the far more effective, “Swine flu mutates children into hideous ham beasts!”

The edge goes to television here over the Internet. They actually have a budget and can put together a scary graphic of a school bus full of pigs set to some ominous Latin chanting. They can interview experts who will tell us all about how pigs pass the flu, and then when that’s proven to be insane, decry the same kind of coverage on other networks. All without exploding into karma-based flames.

Television and the Internet also share one major advantage over newspapers — they don’t have to lie to gain an audience. Well, let me rephrase that. They still lie. But they don’t have to figure out what kind of lies to tell, because an audience that likes the lies will come to them.

We in the newspaper business are stuck trying to figure out what kind of lies our particular geographic region prefers to move papers. On that note .

The “freshmen fifteen” is a myth. Art and English degrees are totally useful. No, no one noticed that you drooled when you slept through your morning class. Yes, you are the only person who drank this weekend and everyone wants to hear how drunk you got.

So, television is ahead for ease of use and shininess of images, and both can cater wildly without shame or fear. Still, most people think the Internet is going to win this. It produces content without any investment, can give live, up-to-the-second reporting by people who are qualified to give objective analysis, in that they have Twitter.

Coverage of Iran provides an excellent case study here. When the election was tinkered with a short while back, Twitter was used as a way to toss information around government filters instantly. This was brought to a halt when Michael Jackson died, and Iran-relevant traffic was drowned in a sea of “RIP Michael Jackson” tweets.

This leads us to a dangerous situation where all a despot has to do to disrupt media coverage is to kill a celebrity. And if I may be so bold as to make a suggestion to whatever overlord needs to Twitter his way to a more contented democratic election? Please.

Yo, Twitter, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but newspapers had the best yellow journalism of all-time. Of all-time.

Johnathan Kastner is a senior undeclared major with a physical and mathematical sciences interest. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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