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Start the Presses!

Opinion | December 1, 2010

What happened to pouring over the Sunday morning comics, cutting out your favorites? What happened to your crossword puzzle covered in ink, the wrong answers written over? What about mornings spent reading the sports section with a bowl of cereal? In a world that shoves us through life at break-neck speed, we’re quickly losing the safety brake that affords us small respites from an otherwise digital world.

Go to nytimes.com, wsj.com or cnn.com if you need the news right now. The Internet brings us news instantly and, obviously, it plays a vital role in our daily lives, but it’s important to allow time for yourself to go wireless…-less. Pay an extra couple of dollars (or take advantage of the free newspapers delivered daily to the dining halls and most dorms) and drop what you’re doing. Unfold the paper and smooth it out in front of you. Try the crossword puzzle. Pretend you know what the political cartoons are satirizing. Just take a breath.

At an alarming rate, local and national newspapers are losing profits and facing uncertain futures. In my own hometown, the local Rocky Mountain News shut down in the past year due to diminishing subscriptions. Similar fates have befallen other papers and publications around the country and world. Only a handful of publications (the big ones, mostly) still find it profitable to print their material.

It’s painful to see the printed word become completely computerized. Newspapers, magazines and books are all making the leap from print to digital, and they’re doing more than making news and entertainment more readily accessible: they’re robbing their readers of a real, physical connection with what they’re reading. In my opinion, it comes down to soul. Paper has it. Imagine your house. Imagine your kitchen table, not with a paper in the morning, but instead with a fluorescent screen spouting a computerized image of that day’s news. Imagine your bookshelves without stacks of books in different sizes and colors, but instead with a thin, handheld computer, capable of holding all of your books on its hard drive. Convenient: yes. Human: no. We were meant to hold, to touch, to experience. The crinkle of the newspaper is what makes it a newspaper. The turn of the page is what makes a book a book.

It may seem easy to dismiss the loss of the printed word when you consider the benefits of digital media. The shift from print to digital is another effort to increase connection and communication, right? Readers are able to comment on articles and voice their opinions online. It seems as though online media is creating a dialogue, is it not? We pride ourselves on our connectedness; what with cell phones, twitter and facebook, we are constantly connected to a gigantic network of our peers, yet there is something hollow in these means of communication. They all hide behind computer chips and satellites and fluorescent screens. Digital media isn’t allowing us to start a dialogue; it merely gives a platform to voice our opinions anonymously.

The printed word is, in my opinion, the last stand for direct communication. Print is bold. It’s brash. It demands your full attention. Yes, it’s sometimes impractical, inconvenient and even burdensome, but it’s one of the few things left that allows us to disconnect from the digital age and connect with something real. The printed word is so important because reminds us of the tangible world we seem to have forgotten. Now turn the page.