The manipulation of online media

I could very easily talk about my time at Tech. While I do want to impart all that I have learned over the past five years, I would refer you to my piece in the 2018 Freshman Survival Guide that was more of a “swan song” than this will be. It’s some pretty solid advice, albeit without the lessons gained from this long and arduous journey of being editor of the Technique

To sum it up: get out of your comfort zone, take advantage of the opportunities that you have here and do not let who you are now hinder your progress to becoming the best version of yourself. 

Now that we have that short reflection out of the way, I want to bring up something that I feel I have a moral obligation, as current editor of the newspaper, to discuss. 

I have been on the newspaper for five years now. I have seen the internal operations, I have seen the external operations and I would like to think that I have a good sense of the various perspectives from which the newspaper is viewed. 

I want to bring up an issue that has been plaguing the Technique for years and I’m going to try to bring it up as diplomatically as possible. I want to talk about the importance of print media and the manipulation of online media. 

Within Tech, this concept is lost on people, especially members of the Student Government Association (SGA), to whom I’ve written multiple letters, drafted aesthetically pleasing graphics for the sake of easy mental digestion, sent multiple e-mails and possibly dedicated more time to ensuring our ability to print than to what actually goes in the newspaper. 

After SGA hounded us about pick up rates, we went through the lengthy process of collecting them (we had done significantly better than the previous year). After sending the data, we were met with silence on the topic. In the next budget session our efforts to satisfy SGA with regards with the data was not brought up — instead, their members decided to pick on an entirely different issue. 

It’s almost as if SGA likes to pick on the Technique just for the sake of doing so — which is interesting because we are the one organization that actually calls SGA out when they do something questionable. Now, SGA’s latest demand has been to digitize the Technique

While the Technique has specific reasons to disagree with this demand, the importance of print media in the larger scope of society is not really something that is brought up during our budget sessions and bills because it is far too complex of a subject to expect student senators and representatives to listen to  — which is a sad and unfortunate fact, only corroborated by the fact that it is hard to get their attention, even with our letters and statistics.

And perhaps it is simply an issue with the fact that with every year there is a turnover in the house and senate, and new members must learn the ropes all over again, but that does not warrant inattentiveness and callousness especially when dealing with a responsibility such as budgets. 

This brings me to the crux of this editorial. Why do we print? While our main answer is generally 1) the Technique is a tradition that has been around longer than SGA, 2) we need to print to compete in the various awards that we consistently bring back for our school and 3) the newspaper is a creative outlet in a technical-based environment, there a is bigger reason that extends far past the scope of student government, the Technique and Georgia Tech. 

It’s true that print media is quickly becoming digitized. And while digital media has its upsides, it also has its downfalls in that it can be very easily manipulated. 

Digital media has a role as a great supplement to print media. It allows readers and viewers to engage with content and it promotes discussion, which is what the Technique strives to do. However, print media captures and documents moments and events so that they are permanently on record. Journalists are held accountable for their actions. There is a source of truth in print newspapers that is difficult to find in online media, especially in multimedia forms. There is a responsiblity and need for comprehensiveness that falls upon the reporter in print media that is sometimes missing in online media. This is not to say that all online media is superficial and cursory, but the barrier to entry in order to generate online content is much lower than that of print. 

There is also a sense of credibility that accompanies print media. As the only consistent student news source on campus, the Technique tries hard to accurately portray the voice of the student body in a holistic way, which is sometimes difficult given the apathy that is unfortunately present in our community. Keeping print media alive allows student journalists to convey important information to the community, holds them accountable for their work and fosters a sense of connectedness that is lost through digital media, where we are often coaxed into clicking one article after another, the content of which can be less credible and from a less reliable source than in print. 

In this era, there is a strong drive for change. And often, change is good. We are becoming more progressive and accepting. However, this does not mean that old harmless traditions should die out, especially when these traditions preserve a sense of accountability, credibility and journalistic integrity that is sometimes lacking in online media due to the low barrier to entry. Print media holds reporters to a higher standard, and while digital media is certainly the future, that does not mean that print media is dead.