What happens if newspapers don’t sell that many hard copies commemorating the inauguration on Tuesday and Wednesday? What will that mean for paper journalism?
Very little, sales-wise, but if sales are poor, it would mean that fewer people a) are getting their news about the inauguration from the paper copies and b) that the commemorative value of a newspaper to remember an event has declined.
I remember rifling through an old desk at my grandparents’ house and finding a stack of slightly yellowing front pages marking every major news event since the election of FDR, as covered by the Billings Gazette. Pearl Harbor, the moon landing, Nixon’s resignation, the start of the Gulf War, all of them were there.
My grandmother kept them for sentimental reasons, to remember those events — even if, I know for a fact, she hadn’t looked at them since putting them in the drawer. She still had those copies of the paper to remember things by.
Do people still do this? I don’t know. I get the feeling they don’t, but the fact that we’ll be swearing in the first black president, and the first new president in eight years, might make some people buy a paper copy.
I can’t predict what will happen to the sales figures, but I can say this. If newspapers lose their role as the mementos of historical events (picture Truman holding up the copy of the paper that said Dewey had defeated him the election, for example), then they’ve lot yet another one and perhaps the biggest advantage they had over news online.