Last night I took part in my first ever debate. I was honoured to be asked to speak by the University of St Andrews Debating Society, in support of the motion that Print is Dead.
Also supporting the proposition was Dr. Alistair Duff, Senior Lecturer and Reader in Information and Journalism and Edinburgh Napier University, and Farhan Samanani, a student at the university who stepped in with a brilliant speech at the last minute to cover a late cancellation.
Against were Prof Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of Journalism and Media Studies and director of the Journalism Programme at the University of Witwatersand, Johannesburg, Dr Malcolm Walsby, Lecturer in History at the University of St Andrews and a specialist in the history of the book, and Michael Skapinsker, Assistant Editor of the Financial Times.
The debate took place in St. Andrew’s historic Lower Parliament Hall, so called because the Scottish Parliament met there in 1645 as it was a safe haven from the plague that was sweeping Edinburgh at the time. It was amazing to be seated at the speaker’s table, sipping port with such esteemed company, and absolutely fascinating to hear the arguments on both sides of the motion. It was also great to meet some of the students involved in the debating society who were really friendly and interesting to chat to. It was also great to see such a good turn-out and interest and enthusiasm in the audience.
And I think it’s fair to say that we lost horribly. Despite Dr Duff asking for a show of hands and proving that the majority of students present did not buy a newspaper that morning, the vast majority rejected the motion. As far as print goes, it seems there’s life in the old dog yet!
Having said that, no-one there could deny that things have changed irrevocably when it comes to our reading habits, and I still stand by my argument that we increasingly expect to be able to access information from all over the world in an instant and for that information to be personalised – and we can only do this digitally. I’ll be posting a short summary of my speech and a few other thoughts on the subject here soon.