Technology and Journalism
In today’s digital age, there is no limit to how one may consume the news. Local, national, and international news stories are available in seconds to anyone with an Internet connection and a computer, tablet, or phone. This “on demand” type of news acquisition is has been popularized by our modern world, and has changed the way news is reached by audiences.
Before the Internet, local and national news stations, as well as newspapers and radio, were the only way to access information. With everyone hearing the same information from the same providers, the flow of content was very limited. However, as the Internet came to be, so did a new era in news media.
Before examining more modern technology, the precursor to it all must be acknowledged. The invention of the first printing press in the west is credited to Johannes Gutenberg in 1439. It should be noted, however, that printing had existed in Asia previously; woodblock printing had also been seen in Europe before Gutenberg’s press was created.
Over the next few hundred years, the printing press would spread throughout Europe and be continuously improved upon. This led to mass communication and the development of newspapers and magazines. Those in this industry would eventually be known as “the press,” a reference to the printing presses used in their profession.
It has been argued by some scholars that the radio was the biggest revolution in mass communication after the first printing press. Before the invention of the internet, this was almost indisputably true.
Over several decades many inventors and scientists experimented with electricity and magnetism as an avenue of communication. Reginald A. Fessenden was the first person to transmit audio through radio waves, and in 1906 sent out the first public broadcast.
However, it would take some time for this new mode of communication to be used for more than entertainment. During World War II, American journalist Edward R. Murrow traveled to England to broadcast information about Hitler and the bombings on London. His broadcasts became a major source of information for Americans before the United States officially entered the war.
The radio changed how the news was communicated to the public; bringing about an age of broadcast journalism over traditional printed media.
The invention of the television, credited to Philo Taylor Farnsworth in 1927, was the next major innovation in news media. With the television, viewers had moving images, live reporting, and interesting visuals to draw and keep their attention. Large news networks and smaller stations emerged, encompassing local, national, and international news.
This form of broadcast reporting would become the most popular for several decades, until the next major technological innovation changed the medium once again.
The change was not overnight, nor was it a smooth transition. The Internet was available for commercial use in 1995, but it would take some time for the majority of average citizens to procure their own computers. Many Americans today now enjoy high-speed internet as opposed to the dial-up of the past. However, those modern citizens who do not have access to such things may be at a disadvantage in terms of up-to-date news.
The Internet has proven to be a formidable new platform rivaling any other source of information for its ease of access and scope. The Internet grew into large online communities and encyclopedias of readily accessed information, which quickly changed how people interacted with the platform.
As the Internet grew, so did the number of ways to access it. The first iPhone was released in 2007, the first of many phones that would become a staple of society. Smartphones replaced bulky flip phones quickly, popularizing the glass-fronted touch screen we all know today.
In this quickly evolving age, several different social media sites grew. Between 2004 and 2006, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter all launched. In 2010, Instagram launched, followed by Snapchat in 2011. These brands have become staples of society, connecting people internationally to a fast-paced world.
Flashy headlines, pictures, and buzzwords are often used in “social media journalism” in order to try and attract viewers in a saturated market. Because of the amount of readily available information suddenly being pumped into the phones and feeds of citizens, small, local publications had trouble keeping up, with many going out of business. Larger news networks eventually realized that in order to stay relevant in their industry, they must adapt to a changing market. Major news stations began migrating to online forms, focusing heavily on websites and phone applications, as well as creating their own Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts to compete in those sectors.
With this heavy saturation in the news industry, news stations and journalists must compete in a way that they have not had to in the past. People can now look directly to the source and search for stories that suit their interest, with little regard to brand loyalty. Twitter allows users to search trending topics and read a handful of short sentences on a topic in seconds, while Facebook and YouTube both allow users to pick and choose their consumed content to fit their specific wants and needs. An additional pull to these sources is that they are not just for the consumption of news, but also entertainment and social interaction. Thus these versatile platforms are more heavily used than strictly news-only websites.