The demise of print journalism


Perpetually, it seems, newspapers wrapped in plastic line the streets of Newton. To some, the sight of stacks accumulating on front lawns is an eyesore. To others, who diligently digest the Newton Tab newspaper, the papers are an essential way to maintain connection to the local community.

The Newton Tab, the city’s only print newspaper, announced on March 16 that it would cease printing, opting to move to its publisher’s online platform, WickedLocal, after its final print edition on May 4. While the paper is not officially dead, its move to a strictly-online format marks the end of an era of consistent local coverage — perhaps a sign of the end of print news as a whole.

40 years ago, Newton had four local newspapers, all subscription-based. When the Newton Tab began printing in 1979, it was revolutionary, delivering each Wednesday to residents’ doors free of charge. The weekly newspaper covered a myriad of local news, ranging from high school sports games to the latest real estate listings to feel-good stories about local initiatives. 

However, in recent years, the paper has entered a lull. In a March 17 Village 14 forum, many commenters remarked  on a distinct decline in the quality of the Tab. Once equipped with a large staff, today the paper only boasts one reporter.

The paper has also experienced significant changes in management, with its most recent being its acquisition by Gannett Company, a media holding company owning over 1,000 newspapers across the country, in 2019. 

According to WickedLocal, the decision to suspend printing was a result of the Tab’s commitments to the sustainable future of local journalism.

With the move online, Newton will be the largest city in Massachusetts without a local print newspaper, according to the Boston Globe.

In the era of digitalization, the Tab’s move made us question the importance of print journalism. Online journalism trumps print papers in its accessibility — both for publishers and readers.

As a print paper, we understand the additional effort it takes to print: from spending hours laying page designs to meeting printer deadlines, printing a newspaper requires a substantial amount of extra time and resources. 

As a monthly paper, we also have to grapple with the delay in reporting that comes from our print date — a delay not experienced by online publications. For readers, online news offers real time breaking news accessible from anywhere on the internet and provides a platform for interaction and feedback.

All of these benefits may lead some to question the relevance and reach of print journalism: is it still necessary to print in the digital age?

We believe it is.

All the barriers to printing a paper ensure that every page — every word and design — is intentional and meaningful. The hard work that laying and editing takes translates into reliable and thoughtful coverage with a personality and charm that online websites lack. One editor called paper journalism “an art form” — the ink on the page gives photos and text more value. Physical placement of articles and photos adds a layer to a reader’s understanding of a story.

In addition to these benefits, the difference in consumption between print papers and scrolling online varies greatly. Many of our editors have memories of the Newton Tab or Boston Globe spread across their kitchen counters, their parents flipping through pages while eating breakfast as a cemented ritual.

As the only print newspaper left in Newton, we will work to ensure these values and continue to shed light on life in the Garden City.