The newspaper, to paraphrase Monty Python, is not quite dead. To hear Robert Zimmerman, partner at Zimmerman/Edelson, Inc. tell it, the printed paper is still an essential tool in the public relations practitioners’ kit. Zimmerman made this point to the students attending last week’s conference staged by Hofstra’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. He noted that because the Internet allows us to synthesize our news before it reaches us, we avoid seeing countless stories and photos that would enhance our knowledge of the world–and even the neighborhoods–around us. Many of us, especially young people, are only reading slivers of the news from self-selected categories. We also miss stories we might have enjoyed because they aren’t pre-defined as news we care about.
For example, I wouldn’t set my online New York Times categories to include the style section. But because I get the printed paper delivered, I spotted an article today on how parents are defining success for their kids who are going to college, an article I enjoyed and would not have seen otherwise. By flipping through Saturday’s Newsday, I found out that Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law is on trial in New York, Bill Clinton has endorsed gay marriage and Justin Timberlake is hosting Saturday Night Live. I might have missed some of that important information (my wife loves J.T.!) if I had only read my pre-determined news feeds.”It’s true many younger people get their news online — which for the most part means the headlines — and don’t want to spend the time to read in-depth articles as so many generations did before,” wrote Michael Russnow in a Feb. 19 Huffington Post blog. He added, “…websites do not offer the same quality that comes in the form of a three-dimensional journal. Most online articles are not too substantive…”
He’s right, and so is Robert Zimmerman. When we read online exclusively, we’ve chosen to miss a lot. Good PR people can’t afford be so selective. Knowing what goes on around you is helpful, necessary and expected. Printed newspapers still matter. Your thoughts?