What does print media mean today?
Words, more words, and a few more words. Now that we’ve separated out those that only glance through, it is time to consider what this magazine, what this section— Print News— means today. So we put it to you, but first, a history lesson.
Craccum was founded as an 8-page paper back in 1927, and readers today might be surprised to learn that it had to be purchased. For 3 pence ($1.50 today), the students of the day learned of the plans for the creation of a new student’s union for their association. Indeed, the very same AUSA that we know today. Of course, now Craccum is free to all who happen to wander to one of the many drop-off boxes and collect one of the 1000 copies that are distributed 24 weeks a year.
And yet, with Stuff becoming the latest major newsgroup in this country to announce plans for subscription-based content, it seems the world is reverting. Since television was invented, print media has been in decline, the internet and its modern explosion of usage have only accelerated that. If you can find exactly what you want when you want it, why pay for yesterday’s news the following Monday? The world moves faster than even daily circulars can keep up with, and people are used to knowing the moment an event happens.
Have no fear; Craccum has no plans, as far as this reporter is aware, to even consider paid journalism at this point. It will change as situations change. Indeed, the 8-page cut this year and reduction of printed copies, reflect instability in this area. The way you can help? Keep picking up a copy, week after week.
Compounded by this is an increasing distrust of the media around the world. PR company Edelman reported that in New Zealand, six out of ten people believed that journalists intentionally report things they know to be false. Research out of AUT revealed that just under half of the respondents “trusted the news most of the time.” A lack of trust in where people get their information leads down dark avenues, beneficial for no one involved. And so the Craccum team asked its social media, an admittedly small and biased sample, how far it trusted us.
The general consensus was “more than mainstream media icl” as one submitter bluntly put it. The Craccum team can rest assured, knowing that most people willing to follow the Instagram page are willing to trust them most of the time. There were some reservations, and some trust with a “grain of salt,” which is a healthy critical perspective for any reporting. All people bring their own backgrounds to the pieces they write, and although others are consulted and research done, history flows into the present. Another respondent thought that Craccum was “lowkey very politically biased.” So again, we put it to the people to ask what they thought.
Though the answers of “Very” and “Pretty far” give nothing on their own, in conjunction with “Left with a capital L,” most are able to get the picture. The magazine has mellowed from ten years ago when under the tenure of editor Thomas Dykes, guides were written about how to occupy buildings on campus, excerpts from radical works, and responses to letters to the editor would cover whole pages in red text. Concerned about falling readership and the rhetoric, AUSA held a vote to depose Dykes, which failed, and in subsequent years there was a reigning in of content and topics.
James Brown, an undergraduate at the time and subsequent Craccum writer up to 2019 identifies this as the start of a trend of abstaining from the same sort of politics and light-heartedness. Since the editors were separated from the AUSA board in 2018, this liveliness has started to rekindle itself. Today, one respondent says the magazine is “just the right amount of left while still holding the left accountable. Chefs kiss.” And that seems a healthy niche to occupy.
In comparison to other media outlets, per the Curia Media Bias Poll, this would put us somewhere near Stuff or The Spinoff, probably a little further, as they both had submitters suggest they had right-wing tendencies too. Inevitable in large organisations, there will be a variety. In fact, the news is seen to be more left-leaning, with only talkback radio stations like Newstalk ZB listed as “to the right,” which may reflect the individual hosts and audience more.
Where to now? Some say online. Discard the pulpy flesh and shift to the website. Tech issue, #14 of this year will be an online experience only. For one week, the red boxes will lie empty. The only issue is a vast majority of even long-term readers do not seem to know the website exists. The blood of the paper is ink. 1400 trees a year give their lives to feed this machine. Those I have spoken to, particularly people who live in halls, grab it because it is convenient. Lunchtime entertainment with puzzles and horoscopes, with articles to pass around after. A sacred bonding that will be forgotten about the moment that it disappears from in front of their eyes.
Craccum must always adapt to the world. From a magazine in the 1970s that took a stance against hiring women to a paper whose team is predominantly women, necessary and positive changes have been made over the years. The move to online readership does not appear to be of the same urgency and importance.
So the people were asked one final question: what do they like about Craccum today? Discounting the staff writer’s submission that she likes the staff writer and also the individual who responded only to say that they had not read it in a long time, a few consistencies stand out. The first is that it is physical and accessible. The work can be turned into posters, and it’s everywhere that you could want to find it. Others praised the mixture of tones, that hold over from the post-2012 revolutionary phase combined with the revival of well-natured jokes.
And finally, Craccum has to ask itself what niche it fills, what it means for the university. Whether it can put out information that people might not know they want or need, that they can not receive from anywhere else. If any readers do not think it does, want to complain or suggest an avenue to pursue. Email, get involved. This magazine is made by students, in the end, and always is looking for more contributors. If you’re a student, the University has even minorly inconvenienced you, and no one else will help, the Craccum team will look into it.
Overall, the only complaints received were that we “weren’t radicalising the business students” and that one respondent wished that we provided more critical judgements of university decisions. To the first, I say that the cost of providing high-quality news is that sometimes you have to focus in on certain topics, and if business students are the audience we leave behind, I am unsure if that is much of a loss. To the second, I say watch this space.