Print is dying? We should be so lucky. Journalism is dying. Or to be more specific, journalists are dying... literally. Last year marked the highest number of deaths related to journalism this millennium. A total of 137 people involved in media gave their lives to their line of work. Combine that with the continuing censorship of media and the dismembering of both print and television. We enter the year of 2010 following the worst-ever year for journalism.

The fact that saying “Print is dying” has become a common phrase should be alarming. Why? Because we shouldn't allow that phrase to linger long enough to become a cliché. What should also be alarming is how much of an understatement it is. Of the 137 people killed, 68 were journalists while the remainder worked for media in some other form. More than half of the journalists killed were print journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CJB) have said that this statistic is “indicating that print media continue to play a front-line role in reporting the news in dangerous situations.” I agree. Print can be just as powerful of a medium as the Internet or television.

News servers can be taken down, websites can be altered, and television is only accessed temporarily by the user (unless you record it). It is only print which is fully palpable. For example, the Chinese government can broadcast new television reports that avoid the topic of Tienanmen Square and block virtual images of it on the Internet. But what they can't alter is the actual photograph of the events.

If you don't find this argument very convincing, then take into account what actions the richest man in the world is doing with print media. Bill Gates is using a bomb shelter that is 70 metres deep in a mine to store print media. Although he's more famously known for creating Microsoft, Gates also owns Corbis, a corporation which licenses photographs. Since the beginning of this millennium, Gates has reocated over 65 million photographs to place in his bomb shelter. You have mostly likely seen many of these photos, as they've documented a variety of topics – from the photo-journalism of the United Press International (including 10 million photos from the Hearst, Scripps and Chicago Tribune newspapers) to the Bettman archive of 7 million photographs. The point I want to drive home is that Corbis licenses millions of these photographs virtually over the Internet. It is possible to find many of these photographs online – so why protect the print versions? Gates understands the power of the print. The original, unalterable, material source of information.

The deconstructionalist philosopher Jacques Derrida once argued that the truth behind an archive of information, whether it be by bomb-shelter or library, will always be subject to what the archiver chooses not to archive. If I may extrapolate on Derrida's theories: with the existence of virtual servers holding information, it also depends on who controls the server which archives the information. A single server may hold the archives of thousands of other corporations. To exemplify this on a personal level, consider how many of your personal photographs have been deleted from your computer's hard-drive and left to be stored by a social network such as Facebook. The control of that entire archive is not in your hands, not even in your own government's hands, but in the hands of a few people in Palo Alto, California (Facebook's headquarters). When they turn off their servers, you use lose access.

Now, an image of you getting drunk on Facebook is a small thing to worry about having control over, but you can imagine the problems that arise if that photograph was a unique one of the events of Tienanmen Square and the servers hosting such images were blocked. That's exactly what happened in China.

In Orwell's 1984, the main character was a journalist. He began as a re-writer of newspaper articles, altering news just like the same talking heads we find on television, except he had to put in the extra effort of destroying print media. As soon as the main character did some actual independent print journalism by writing down “two plus two makes four,” he was killed. Another dead print journalist.

These days, cloud computing usage is rising. “Cloud” is the term used for a virtual storage system. That is, your files and data are not held on a physical hard drive that you control but a hard drive that is most likely miles away and only accessible through the Internet. Don't get me wrong, it's a great service and I use it. The benefits of digital information on the Internet are incredible – there's no reason for me to waste print on the topic. But equally true is that cloud computing will have facilitated the continuing detachment of the user from the physical copy as it becomes more common. A few months ago, one of my cloud services shut down after years of service. The Silicon Valley corporation erased all my photos and documents that were held there for over a decade. I had relied on their servers so much that I didn't require my files' physical copies for the entire decade, and I eventually lost them. It wasn't a complete loss – I gained a reminder in the importance of controlling print.

Here's to hoping 2010 brings a much safer year to all journalists – including the vital print journalist.

//Alamir Novin

Editor In Chief

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