By S.T. Patrick
Doing alternative historical and political research was once very time consuming and very expensive. It took a yeoman’s effort that went beyond watching YouTube videos, reading social media posts, or clicking a link to another website. While the internet has made research more accessible, thus growing the cadre of citizen researchers attempting to find alternative information, it also threatens the permanence of such research. Because of this, there remains a great value to the print medium.
There are practical reasons for print. Who doesn’t know someone who has lost hundreds or thousands of pictures when their smart phone crashed? Not only were their pictures or favorite website links gone, so was the contact information for most of their friends, colleagues, and associates. Crashes like these have become less common due to cloud storage backups, yet it does still happen, especially for those who use off-brand phones sold at big box retailers. The same situation applies to a desktop or laptop computer. The hard drives will fail. A “Backblaze” study revealed that 90% of hard drives lasted three years. Only 80% lasted four years. Due to their mobility and increased wear and tear, laptop hard drive failure rates are even higher. The failure is inevitable. Is all of your info backed up?
Aside from technological failures, a strong reason to stay connected to print today is the growing power of the thought police. The greatest danger to digital research today is the increased application of censorship by Big Government, Big Tech, and Big Media. If a tech company disables your social media account, the information, in most cases, is not recoverable. If a company like Amazon decides to de-list a book from its inventory, a Kindle reader no longer has access to that book, even if they have it saved in their favorites list. The only way to own a product is to buy it. The best way to ensure that a book, magazine or newspaper stays in your collection is to own a hard copy of the item.
The concept of an “Internet Kill Switch” dates back to several telecommunications bills. In a mass cyberattack—or something similar—the president has the authority to metaphorically flip a switch that turns the internet off. A 2010 bill that would have specifically resisted this concept failed, but broad-reaching assumptions of power from previous telecommunications bills currently gives that power to the president and the executive branch. If the “Internet Kill Switch” was ever “flipped,” where would your research and contacts be stored? In times of national emergency, print media becomes all the more important in salvaging truth from the political wreckage.
The mainstream media line is that print media is dying. And it is—for a mainstream media that continues doing shoddy work based upon advertising a government and establishment-approved narrative rather than reporting news or correcting the mistakes of their own historiography. Big media such as The New York Times and the Washington Post beg you to subscribe to their archives to remind you of the good work that used to be done in certain cases. They’re asking you to borrow their con- tent rather than owning it. What they give can thus also be taken away.
The active reader or the engaged researcher, how- ever, is not being forced into digital. You do still have options. In an article for London’s The Guardian, Mark Hoper wrote, “Despite what you may have heard, reports of the ‘death of print’ have been greatly exaggerated.” In an interview with Writer’s Digest, Samir Husni, the author of Launch Your Own Magazine, said, “Yes, the numbers . . . have been less than rosy for the magazine industry, but every road has a few bumps. To say the future of magazines is little more than a resting place in a graveyard full of Betamax and Laserdiscs would be ridiculous.”
What we learn from the trove of articles written in defense of the print industry is that cookie-cutter newspapers are failing, middle-of-the-road magazines are failing, and vanilla, establishment journalism has bored readers more interested in challenging the mainstream narratives and reading the results of investigative journalism. The large umbrella model—carefully offend no one as to gain a wider readership—has given way to a smaller, thriving niche journalistic market that excites readers and writers once again.
Readers are hungry for questions to be asked and answers to be given. They understand that their dollars are their most impactful votes. Those who haven’t understood that yet should know that because the best print work today is being done by smaller organizations dedicated to their missions, dollars are vital for their survival. This is the time to keep your contact information on paper, this is the time to subscribe to print versions of your favorite independent newspapers, and this is the time to buy print editions of your favorite magazines and books.