The use of newspapers; Its advantages and disadvantages to the public


According to Casey (2008), a newspaper is a serial publication containing news, other informative articles and advertising. A newspaper is usually but not exclusively printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. Newspapers are typically published daily or weekly and usually entail the usage of a very large volume of paper.

The environmental impact of newspaper is significant, which has led to changes in industry and behaviour at both business and personal levels. With the use of modern technology such as the printing press and the highly mechanised harvesting of wood, paper has become a cheap commodity which had led to a remarkable growth in the newspaper industry. This has resulted to a high level of consumption and waste of paper (Sonnenfeld, 2009).

The production and use of newspaper has a number of adverse effects on man and the environment which are known collectively as paper pollution. Pulp mills contribute to air, water and land pollution. Discarded paper is a major component of many landfill sites, accounting for about 35 percent by weight of municipal solid waste (before recycling). Even paper recyclingof old newspaper can be a source of pollution due to the sludge produced during de-inking (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2015).

Origin of newspapers

Before the invention of newspapers in the early 17th century, official government bulletins were circulated at times in some centralized empires. The earliest newspapers date to 17th-century Europe when printed periodicals began rapidly to replace the practice of hand-writing newssheets. The emergence of the new media branch has to be seen in close connection with the simultaneous spread of the printing press from which the publishing press derives its name (Weber, 2010).

The term newspaper became common in the 17th century. However, in Germany, publications that we would today consider to be newspaper publications, were appearing as early as the 16th century. They were discernibly newspapers for the following reasons: they were printed, dated, appeared at regular and frequent publication intervals, and included a variety of news items (unlike single item news mentioned above). The first newspaper according to modern definitions was the Strasbourg Relation, in the early 17th century (Hunt, 2014).

Other early papers include the Dutch Courante uytItalien, Duytslandt, &c. of 1618 which was the first to appear in folio- rather than quarto-size. Amsterdam, a centre of world trade, quickly became home to newspapers in many languages, often before they were published in their own country  (Mitchell, 2012)

The first English-language newspaper, Corrant out of Italy, Germany, etc., was published in Amsterdam in 1620. A year and a half later, Corante, or weekelynewes from Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, France and the Low Countreys.was published in England by Thomas Archer.The first newspaper in France was published in 1631, La Gazette (originally published as Gazette de France). The first successful English daily, The Daily Courant, was published from 1702 to 1735. The first editor, for 10 days in March 1702, was Elizabeth Mallet, who for years had operated her late husband’s printing business(Ian, 2014).

Advantages of newspaper usage

Newspapers bring to people real life situations and can be easily used as authentic materials. Newspaper-based activities engage people in interesting and enjoyable activities and they also encourage them to further reading. They usually reflect the culture of a certain community through the language they contain. Newspapers also reflect the changes in the language as well, and in doing so, help students and teachers keep up pace with such changes. Most newspapers are linguistically up-to-date and provide valuable linguistic data (Wiener, 2011).

Newspapers provide a wide range of various text types and language styles, which are not always found in textbooks. This is one of the most important features of newspaper-based activities. Another great advantage of newspapers is that they can serve as a motivating medium in encouraging and stimulating people to read further and to engage themselves in the organized activities. They report real-life events that are of actual importance and emotional value to people, and this arouses their curiosity. “People learn through reading, and reading about interesting new things in one’s interest subject, undoubtedly helps motivation” (Edwards, 2015).

Other advantages of newspaper as highlighted by Casey (2008) are:

  • Newspapers carry the news of the world. By reading it, the reader will become updated with current events not only in his/her nation but news about other countries as well.
  • Newspapers provide information and general knowledge. Reading it daily will widen the scope of the reader’s knowledge which is an integral part of education. Newspapers can provide interesting things and ideas which can assist individual in their learning process. Not only are the news itself that are beneficial, but it also develop their language skills and increases their word vocabulary.
  • Newspapers provide news about a country’s economic situation, sports, games, entertainment, trade and commerce. People are made aware of the existing condition of politics, culture and economy by reading the news. Those who hunger for news will surely find satisfaction by reading the newspapers as it carries information of various topics.
  • Reading newspaper makes a good habit and it is already part of the modern life. This habit will widen the reader’s outlook and will enrich his/her knowledge.
  • Reading newspaper makes the reader well informed. It enables him/her to take part in every discussion pertaining to the world’s current events. By taking an active participation in group discussions, it will make the reader feel that he/she belong in an enlightened society.
  • Reading newspapers will improve the reader’s knowledge in general and it will be easy for him/her to relate to other people who often talks about current events and politics. Of course, there are televisions and radios that also bring current news but it do not provide detailed information as newspaper does.
  • Through newspapers, the readers have a clear idea and understanding of what is happening in their country and the whole world. It also carries contents about policies and plans of government and corporations. It has also plenty of advertisements that will keep them updated about what is going on in the world of business and industry.

Disadvantages of newspaper to the public

The production and use of newspaper has a number of adverse effects on the environment which are known collectively as paper pollution. Pulp mills contribute to air, water and land pollution.

Disadvantages of newspapers to the general public as identified by Clarke (2009) include:

  • Deforestation
  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Waste

1. Deforestation

Worldwide consumption of paper used in the production of newspaper has risen by 400% in the past 40 years, with 35% of harvested trees being used for newspaper production. Plantation forest, from where the majority of wood for pulping is obtained, is generally a monoculture and this raises concerns over the ecological effects of the practice.Deforestation is often seen as a problem in developing countries but also occurs in the developed world.

2. Air pollution

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are all emitted during newspaper manufacturing. Nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are major contributors of acid rain, whereas CO2 is a greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.

3. Water pollution

Wastewater discharges for a pulp and paper mill contains solids, nutrients and dissolved organic matter such as lignin. It also contains alcohols, and chelating agents and inorganic materials like chlorates and transition metal compounds. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus can cause or exacerbate eutrophication of fresh water bodies such as lakes and rivers. Organic matter dissolved in fresh water, changes ecological characteristics, and in worst-case scenarios leads to death of all higher living organisms. Waste water may also be polluted with organochlorine compounds. Some of these are naturally occurring in the wood, but chlorine bleaching of the pulp produces far larger amounts.The pulp and paper industry is also associated with important emissions of heavy metals.Discharges can also discolour the water leading to reduced aesthetics.

4. Waste

Paper waste like other wastes faces the additional hazard of toxic inks, dyes and polymers that could be potentially carcinogenic when incinerated, or commingled with groundwater via traditional burial methods such as modern landfills. Paper recycling mitigates this impact, but not the environmental and economic impact of the energy consumed by manufacturing, transporting and burying and or reprocessing paper products.

Measures to mitigate problems of newspapers to the public

Some of the effect of the pulp and paper industry can be addressed and there is some change towards sustainable practices. The use of wood solely from plantation forests addresses concerns about loss of old growth forests (Jeffries, 2011).

Other measures according to Sonnenfeld (2009) include:

1. Bleaching

The move to non-elemental chlorine for the bleaching process reduced the emission of the carcinogenic organochlorines, ozone and hydrogen peroxide and oxygen are used in bleaching sequences in the pulp industry to produce totally chlorine free (TCF) paper.

2. Recycling

Recycling paper decreases the demand for virgin pulp and thus reduces the overall amount of air and water pollution associated with paper manufacture. Recycled pulp can be bleached with the same chemicals used to bleach virgin pulp, but hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydrosulphite are the most common bleaching agents.

3. Mechanical pulp mills

Wood pulp produced primarily by grinding wood is known as “mechanical pulp” and is used mainly for newsprint. These mechanical processes use fewer chemicals than either kraft or sulfite mills. The primary source of pollution from these mills is organic material such as resin acids released from the wood when it is processed. Mechanical wood pulp is “brightened,” as opposed to bleached, using less toxic chemicals than are needed for chemical pulps.

Summary and conclusion

Despite the numerous environmental issues associated with the use of newspaper, its importance to the general public cannot be emphasized. Bases this, measures should be put in place to address the environmental issues associated with the usage of newspaper through Bleaching process to reduce the emission of the carcinogenic materials associated with newspaper waster, recycling to reduce deforestation, the use of Mechanical pulp mills that use fewer chemicals, etc.


Casey, J. (2008). Dictionary for Library and Information Science, New York: Abc-Clio

Clarke, B. (2009). From Grub Street to Fleet Street: An illustrated history of English newspaper. London: Ashgate.

Edwards, F. L. (2015). Peterborough court: The story of the Daily Telegraph. London: Appleton

Hunt, M. (2014). Hawkers, bawlers and mercury: Women and the London press in the early enlightenment. Woen& History, 3(9),41.

Jeffries, T. (2011).Kraft energy consumption and production.Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Biotech Centre.

Ian, M. (2014).Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: University Press.

Mitchell, S. (2012).  Collier’s Encyclopaedia. Sydney: Klobel Inc.

Sonnenfeld, D. A. (2009).Social movement and ecological modernization: The transformation of pulp and paper manufacturing paper. Berkerley Workshop on Environmental Politics, March, 14th.

Weber, J. (2010). The origins of the newspaper in Europe.German History, 24 (3), 387-412.

Wiener, J. H. (2011). The Americanization of the British press, 1830-2000: Speed in the age of transatlantic journalism. Palgrave: Macmillan.

US Environmental Protection Agency (2015).Paper sludge-waste disposal problem or energy opportunity.New York: US Environmental Protection Agency.


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Eve Mitchell
Eve Mitchell
2 years ago

I loved what you said about newspapers carrying the news of the world. I want to start reading the local newspaper. I think it would be great for keeping up with the community.

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