At Columbia University, the Columbia Daily Spectator has decided to stop printing a daily physical edition, opting for a weekly paper and daily postings online.
This follows announcements from magazines like New York to reduce their publication schedules, but because it’s a college paper, this one strikes close to home. In 1994-95 I was editor in chief of Franklin & Marshall’s The College Reporter, and I spent many a late night finalizing galleys and eliminating serial commas before driving, often at 3 a.m., from Lancaster, Pa., up to Ephrata, 25 minutes to the northeast, to slide our glue-sticked and blue-penciled newspaper-to-be through a very wide mail slot at the printer, so that the paper could be printed and distributed on time Monday afternoon.
It’s been years since I saw the Reporter at any length. I enjoyed for several years receiving the newspaper mailed to me as editor emeritus, although that policy died out after awhile, and the paper somehow failed several times to establish a proper digital presence. (It seems to finally have an up-to-date website, although the content made me double-check that it wasn’t a parody.) I imagine readership on campus at F&M had a similarly parallel experience. The school will eventually, like Columbia, turn the print edition into an anachronism, and ultimately a dead product. Columbia’s weekly paper won’t last very long either.
I love my printed media. I love carrying The Economist folded lengthwise in my coat pocket onto an airplane; I love flipping through the heft of the New York Times on a weekend morning and perusing its daily sections on the subway; I love reading Car and Driver on the can. But I’m also a digital native, having been online since the 1980s, and I love that, too.
And so does everyone else. The benefits of digital publishing are incontrovertible. The world has already made up its mind, and it’s just waiting for the stragglers to let go of the past. When I bring the Times on my morning commute, I am almost always the only person reading a printed newspaper on the train, and if there’s another paper in my car, it’s a freebie handed out on the subway steps, wire stories and local advertising for the bored. The days of learning the accordion fold are over.
So farewell, Columbia Daily Spectator, and farewell, weekly New York, and farewell, eventually, to the rest of the printed periodicals that have brightened my life for 35 years. You will be missed. And you won’t, too.