Reading the Newspaper: A Duty, Pleasure or Backwards Slide?

Roy Peter Clark‘s piece, “Your Duty to Read the Newspaper,” is generating more feedback than I’ve seen on in a long time. He writes that journalists have an obligation, a duty, to read the newspaper — in print, not pixels.

The fact that this article has sparked so much discussion is proof in and of itself that journalism still matters. If people didn’t care about the future of journalism, there wouldn’t be such a huge debate about online vs. print. A few years ago, I wrote a column for my local newspaper about newspapers being the “wave of the future” because, frankly, I feared the growing trend toward online journalism. I’ve never liked change, so the switch to the Web made me feel like something about journalism would be lost along the way. But now I’m a Web-a-holic. I still try to read the paper every day, but I get most of my news on the Web. This is where multimedia and journalism meet. It’s where the future of journalism’s continued growth seems to be headed, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop reading the print edition. Can’t we have both?

Are you a pixel or a paper type of guy/gal? Do you think we have a civic obligation to read the newspaper in print?


Here’s are some more thoughts, which I posted in response to Roy’s piece:

You bring up some interesting points, Roy. Though I read most of the day’s news on the Web, I look forward to the days when… You bring up some interesting points, Roy. Though I read most of the day’s news on the Web, I look forward to the days when I can switch from pixels to print.

Sunday mornings still remind me of hour-long breakfasts with my family, when we’d sit around the table and devour each section of the paper. The Web is undoubtedly an important part of the future and the here and now of journalism, but there’s something special about reading a print newspaper, something that a computer screen just can’t provide. The ink on your fingers, the turning of the pages, the layout of the content — this is all part of the newspaper-reading experience, a tangible encounter with the news that requires readers to actively engage with the stories they are reading.

Seeing people peer from behind broadsheets of print while in coffee shops or at the bookstore makes me hopeful about the future of journalism. I used to love it when my classmates at Providence College would grab a copy of The Providence Journal as they walked out of the dorms on their way to class. Though I later learned that some of them took a copy just for the crossword puzzle, the fact that they picked it up nonetheless sent the message that they had acknowledged the presence of journalism.

Every morning I try to acknowledge, and appreciate, journalism by picking up a copy of The St. Petersburg Times. I usually only skim the section fronts before turning to the Web, but I leave the copy on my desk all day because it comforts me to have it within reach just as much as it pains me to throw it away at the end of the day.

Here’s a column written by The Providence Journal‘s Mark Patinkin related to this discussion.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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