01/23/2012 08:49 am ET Updated Mar 24, 2012

All The News Not Fit To Print

The plotline is idealistically simple: A dog runs outside, fetches the newspaper, and bounds back to his owner. As the sun is rising over a perfectly-maintained neighborhood, the man sits down with his morning coffee, unfolds the paper, and begins to read. My reality is different, to say the least: My dog is not quite that well-trained, the weather isn't always sunny, and I don't drink coffee. Yet one similarity remains -- I read the newspaper every day. Every morning, I awkwardly tiptoe to the end of my driveway in my bare feet and pick up the plastic-wrapped treasure that awaits there. Despite the risk of frostbite and my ever-stressful mornings, I have managed to make this a part of my daily routine. Why? Because I love reading the newspaper.

Newspapers are as American as apple pie. The nation's first continuously published paper, The Boston News-Letter, was first published in 1704. In the three centuries since then, the purpose of newspapers has evolved beyond merely providing the news. With sections devoted to sports, arts, business, and personal advertisements, newspapers began to cater to readers' needs and interests. Individual newspapers began to take on specific cultural or political views and major urban areas and the newspapers that covered them often became so intertwined that it was difficult to mention one without the other.

Recently, however, with the rise of digital media, many have claimed that print journalism is dying. After all, with everything that computers, smart phones, e-readers, and tablets have to offer, why would anyone want to read an actual newspaper? Despite this imminent change, I know that I will continue to cling to the good, old-fashioned newspaper. For me, nothing can compare to the tangible experience of physically reading a newspaper. The small thrill of unfolding it, the smell of the paper, and the way it feels in my hands are all important aspects of the newspaper-reading experience. While there is reassurance -- a 2009 study found that 96 percent of newspaper reading is still done in the print editions -- this number is rapidly shrinking. Also, while many people used to value local newspapers for covering local issues, now bloggers are often the first ones to report a story, often posting articles well before the "professional" journalists even begin to investigate. The fact that you are reading this article online speaks for itself.

There is other evidence that the future of print journalism is not looking too bright. In a recent poll, only 43 percent of Americans said it would hurt civic life "a lot" if their local newspaper closed. Likewise, when asked if they'd miss their paper, 42 percent responded "not much" or "not at all." Over the course of the past decade, virtually all major newspapers have experienced economic troubles. Newspaper subscriptions have decreased, and many businesses have stopped placing advertisements in newspapers, opting for other ways to advertise their products. As a result, newspapers have had to make staff cuts: About one in five newspaper journalists has lost his or her job since 2001. The situation proved to be so difficult for some major newspapers that they even had to close. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was recently scaled down to be solely an online publication, and Denver's Rocky Mountain News shut down entirely in 2009.

And so, just as they have done in the past, newspapers must adapt. There will always be a market for print editions of publications, made up of people like me who refuse to let go of newspapers. However, times are changing, and newspapers have already begun to understand that they must change as well. They must focus on their websites and constantly upload new stories to compete in this 24-hour world. They must include other forms of media, be it audio clips, video clips, or links to related material, to appeal to broader audiences. They must continue to promote themselves as readily available sources of legitimate news. This will insure that newspapers stay afloat in this storm of change and as they focus less and less on their print editions, that they continue to accomplish their most basic goal: Educating the public.