Swarthmore's independent campus newspaper since 1881

The purpose of print: a case for the Phoenix

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

In an increasingly digital world, print journalism is increasingly seen as unnecessary and outdated. News now circulates at an incredibly fast pace and is no longer restricted to traditional sources, like radio stations and newspapers. People are more likely to hear about global events on their Facebook feed than from a print source. Online news is accepted as faster, more easily accessible, and allows readers to have greater choice as to which news source they would like to read.

Nevertheless, print journalism is still an essential source of information. For the Phoenix, print journalism is more than just an outlet for providing information to students. The Phoenix is essential as a print newspaper because it preserves campus history and fosters a space for discourse.   

By serving as a print newspaper, we at the Phoenix must carefully curate our issues each week. Unlike an online news source, we cannot include stories about every incident or event on campus. We must work together as a team to decide which news stories are important enough to be researched, written, and shared with the campus in a printed document. We provide a collaborative, physical space for columnists and contributors to share their thoughts on issues that impact Swarthmore as a whole. Just by choosing what to include in the paper we make a statement about what is deemed newsworthy or what discussions are representative of the community.

After we curate our paper by choosing the most relevant topics and obtaining as many details and perspectives as possible, we print and distribute the Phoenix. Once the information goes into the community, we cannot take it back. We don’t have the ability to make corrections after we publish. It is a permanent source of information that cannot be edited or retracted. Print lasts forever — at least until you recycle it or use it to start a campfire at Crumhenge.

This inability to update The Phoenix once it is published means that it serves as a ledger of our history that also cannot be edited or changed with time. Articles can be deleted from websites, but once we publish the Phoenix, we cannot delete anything. Issues of the Phoenix are physically printed into a book at particular intervals and stored in McCabe, which creates a permanent record of history. The printed issues also give temporal context to articles. While an online article frequently is viewed individually, articles in print sit next to each other and show the reader what else was going on at Swarthmore at a particular time. Thus, in both form and content, we create a product that contextualizes the prominent stories of the day with articles and within history.

Of course, the Phoenix will always continue to serve as a platform for providing students with information. And, by having both an online and print paper, we reach a broader audience and unify anyone with an association to Swarthmore. By having a print newspaper, prospective students who are visiting campus have an immediate glimpse into our community and our culture that makes Swarthmore unique. Alumni are able to read the Phoenix when they are curious about what is happening on campus, or they are encouraged to pick up a paper and discover how Swarthmore has transformed when they return. For current students, the Phoenix provides information as to what is currently happening on campus and highlights the perspectives of other community members. It serves as a platform for promoting discourse when staff, faculty, and students allow themselves to engage.

When we distribute the Phoenix, we present information and ideas to the student body in a way that we can not control or take back. In this way, we seek to be permanent but also present; we curate, but then relinquish. Thus, we seek to be a truly organic process of engagement with the student body. The Phoenix is about the college community, and it is both borne of the student body and read by the student body.

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