Blog: Holding on to Antiquation

Publishers across the country are standing on a ledge today looking down into the dark rectangle that will soon be the grave for print publications. The deaths of newspapers and magazines have been sudden ones – strokes as opposed to long bouts with cancer – with the final blows being rained on them from a struggling economy and a world of technology they were never able to fathom.

About four years ago, I became familiar with the newspaper industry’s reluctance to embrace technology when I served as a public relations spokesperson for a small county government organization. Reporters from The Kansas City Star informed me that it was best to send them press releases in which the copy was placed in the body of an e-mail, not sent as an attachment. Only the graphic designers on staff, they told me, had the capability to open attachments.

Now the industry is finally being done in by the antiquated philosophies they held to firmly while the world around them evolved. Technology made news available instantly. Readers changed. People became less willing to pay for the same news they could read for free on the Internet and more aware that the newspapers they threw into waste bins wasted resources. Today every major metropolitan daily is making cuts – in some cases, to the bone – or on the verge of reducing circulation. Late last year, even The Detroit Free Press, a newspaper that has been in circulation for 177 years, became the first major metro newspaper in the U.S. to end daily home delivery.

This misfortune caused by an adherence to old philosophies does not speak to the way career colleges operate, but it does for traditional colleges and universities. In the last decade, career colleges have superseded four-year institutions in regard to being more attentive to student needs, including the commitment to online education before it was popular, adjustable class schedules, career service offerings, and so on. And in turn, in the present economy, major universities have been no strangers to cutting costs – only a portion of which should be attributed to the present economic environment. Their struggles have more to do with a failure to make the education process more conducive to today’s students or to embrace technology’s capabilities in the online realm.

Tradition runs deep at four-year schools, but if anything, that has so far proven a weakness in the ability to change. The upper-hand for long-term growth seems to go to career colleges for now, not because the sector’s tradition necessarily runs deep – which it does – but because it’s run by executives with forethought who know an ugly death when they see it.

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