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From the Editor: Print Defies the Doubters

(March 2016) posted on Wed Mar 09, 2016

The naysayers of our industry are lacking both in facts and imagination.

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By Robin Donovan

False balance means giving fair play to an idea that’s unsubstantiated; something that a few people believe, but that lacks credibility in neutral circles. Think Holocaust deniers or The Flat Earth Society, whose members flout overwhelming scientific evidence that the Earth is spherical.

The idea of false balance carries its own controversy. As evidence grows that vaccines do not cause autism, for example, some media outlets have still given column space and air time to people who believe they do. At the beginning of the scare, this was an easy mistake to make. As the original study finding the correlation was retracted and its author discredited, it’s become more and more difficult to find reasons to give such arguments play.

Still, many false balances are in gray areas. Someone must decide to label a particular body of evidence a “scientific consensus” while deeming another perhaps compelling, but not comprehensive. Like the ups and downs of the stock market, these tipping points can be hard to identify in the moment, particularly when tempers and egos are inflamed.

We see this in print, too. Screen printers are moving to digital. Digital printers are moving to textiles and ceramics. Textile printers are looking at workflow and finishing. Commercial printers are adding smaller digital machines aimed at prototyping and shorter runs. People are giving presentations on the death of print; people are presenting counterarguments called “Print’s Not Dead.”

It’s all a bit silly. Print, as in daily newspapers, books, catalogs, medical records, architectural documents, and junk mail, is declining. Our society is becoming more global and more mobile, so print as a commodity has declined. Monthly travelers refuse newspapers in favor of a Kindle. Yet when they arrive at their destination, they rely on digital signage to show them the way; they shop in personalized retail spaces with ever-faster store design turnover; and they demand custom-patterned Nikes, one-of-a-kind Coke bottles, and chain restaurants that reflect local tastes in art and menu items. All of this has created a universe for print outputs that baffles common conception.

Those who champion the death of print are right because their definition of what print can do is narrow. They don’t know that everything from the tile beneath their feet to their kids’ sports uniforms to the brace their physician prescribes will soon be a print output, if it isn’t already.

Despite much evidence to the contrary, the world still contains a few Holocaust deniers. You know they’re wrong. Why include their viewpoints in your measured opinions? Don’t fall victim to false balance. Instead, work to share the truth, which is both the real story and the complete one.

This need for sharing is why we tell you marketing is all-important, and why we’ve traveled from Florida to New York to Vegas to Milan over the past few months. We’re stalking change; we’re amassing evidence. And we know the best way to change the outlook on print is to share what print can truly do.

Read more wise words from the editor here.

Read more from our March 2016 "Running the Table" issue here.

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