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János Tamás PAPP: Why Traditional Press Still Matters

In the sprawling age of digitalization, where the internet serves up news at the tap of a screen and social media platforms deliver bite-sized information every millisecond, one might wonder about the relevance of the traditional press. However, despite the undeniable rise and convenience of digital media, the traditional press retains a significance that cannot be overshadowed. Its credibility, depth, function in democracy, and sense of community engagement underscore its undiminished importance. Traditional press is not dead; rather, it’s evolving to catch up with technological advancements.

The traditional press stands as a bulwark of journalistic credibility. Traditional forms of the press enjoy a great deal of credibility and trust among their audiences. Consumers have developed a greater degree of skepticism and caution with regard to the sources of and the content of digital media as a direct result of the prevalence of false news, misinformation, and cyberattacks. On the other hand, traditional media have built a solid reputation among their audiences for consistently providing them with information that is both accurate and reliable, as well as entertaining content. Although some research suggests that citizens in the United States seem to have less and less trust in the national press, in other countries around the world, trust in the press is still high. The extensive process that print news, for instance, undergoes—from on-ground reporting to rigorous editing, and then to print—ensures a level of scrutiny that is hard to match. Journalists and news channels almost always ensure that all facts they are relaying are the truth and make sure to vet their sources. While it’s true that digital media outlets also follow strict editorial processes, the sheer volume and speed at which digital content is produced can sometimes compromise thoroughness. Traditional press, with its slower, more deliberate pace, has the time and structure to ensure that the news being presented has been vetted from multiple angles. 

Some people have even given this kind of journalism a name, calling it slow journalism. Slow journalism is an approach to news reporting that emphasizes depth, thoroughness, and long-term investigation over the immediacy and brevity that characterizes much of today’s fast-paced media environment. Instead of focusing on breaking news and the 24-hour news cycle, slow journalism takes the time to dive deep into stories, often providing historical context, comprehensive analysis, and nuanced perspectives. This method prioritizes quality over quantity and aims to give readers a more thoughtful and comprehensive understanding of the issues. 

Credible and accurate journalism—albeit somewhat slow, as mentioned above—can help restore trust in traditional institutions, and we must not lose sight of the role of the press in democratic processes. Another pivotal role of the traditional press is its function as a pillar of democracy. Newspapers, in particular, have historically played the role of watchdogs, holding institutions and individuals accountable. Investigative journalism, a stalwart of print media, has led to the exposure of scandals, corruption, and misdeeds. By doing so, it ensures that those in power remain answerable to the public. While digital platforms also engage in investigative reporting, the legacy and history of the traditional press have made it a formidable force in this realm.

While the digital age has transformed the way we consume news, it hasn’t diminished the value of the traditional press. The trustworthiness, depth, democratic function, and community focus of traditional media outlets make them not just relevant but essential in today’s fast-paced world. Protecting the traditional press is imperative not only for the preservation of history but also for the very fabric of our democracy. Trust in the media, once eroded, is hard to rebuild, and without this trust, the informed citizenry necessary for a functioning democracy is at risk. The role of the media as a watchdog, as a bearer of truths, and as a space for diverse voices cannot be overstated. By upholding and protecting the traditional press, we are safeguarding the integrity of our democratic society. 

János Tamás Papp JD, PhD is an assistant professor at Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Hungary, and a legal expert at the Department of Online Platforms of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority of Hungary. He has taught civil and constitutional law since 2015 and became a founding member of the Media Law Research Group of the Department of Private Law. He earned his JD and PhD in Law at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University. His main research fields are freedom of speech, media law, and issues related to freedom of expression on online platforms. He has a number of publications regarding social media and the law, including a book titled „Regulation of Social Media Platforms in Protection of Democratic Discourses”.

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