My Mum wanted a copy of the Guardian so she could read about the death of peace campaigner Brian Haw because “it’s hardly been mentioned on the radio”.
She is 89. She has been a dedicated Guardian reader for most of her life, from when it was the Manchester Guardian.
The paper has done her proud with news coverage, a main obit and a G2 cover story on Brian Haw: “The man who would not be moved”.
I haven’t told my Mum yet that the Guardian is going “digital-first” and that the print version may be going the way of Brian Haw.
That’s partly because I’m a bit confused about how new this digital-first stuff is.
Many B2B mags took the decision to run news online and not save it for the weekly print version ages ago.
TV networks now put out breaking news stories as quickly as possible on various media rather than saving them for the main bulletin.
I found out Brian Haw had died via Sky News on Twitter.
That’s not to play down the significance of the Guardian’s new strategy. With a print circulation of around 200,000 and falling by more than 10 per cent a year, the paper says doing nothing is not an option.
Or as Maggie Thatcher (sorry Guardian!) used to say There IS No Alternative to putting all their eggs in the digital basket.
And yet it’s hard not to feel sentimental about print when you look around the Guardian’s exhibition of its 190 year history, currently on show at its King’s Place HQ.
To me, big broadsheet front pages of the Kennedy assassination or moon landings have a drama I don’t get from digital. They seem to capture their time, to be part of history.
But talking to journalism students recently at the London College of Communication, where they work on a weekly college newspaper and online, I was struck how for many of them digital has a permanence that print does’’t.
One said of digital: “It is an archive, whereas print is ephemeral.”
The students, quite rightly, see the importance of building up an online archive of their college work, blogs and articles they may have done on work experience which they can email in one click to a prospective employer, rather than a book of yellowing print cuttings.
They, and their generation, are already thinking digital-first and it would be foolish of any media organisation to ignore them.
But what of my Mum? I think the only solution is to get her an iPad for her 90th birthday.
Then when she is 100, at the same time the Guardian reaches 200, she will still be able to read the paper, because there is absolutely no guarantee it will be celebrating its double century in print form.
Jon Slattery is a freelance media journalist and blogs about journalism at jonslattery.blogspot.com.