This essay was written by me for a class
assignment for a subject called "Media Institutions"
How technological changes in mass media industries have changed and are likely
to change journalistic output.
This essay will explore how technology has changed the way journalists work
on a day-to-day basis. It will briefly inspect which main technological advances
have been made the past fifteen years, before investigating what these changes
have meant to the traditional media. In particular, this essay concentrates
on the effects of Internet publishing on the journalism profession. In conclusion,
the essay examines the new challenges that the Internet has imposed on journalists.
Technology and Journalism have always gone hand in hand. From Johann
Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in the 15th century, via an abundance
of technological advances in the fields of communication, printing, database
and computing technology, before finally arriving where journalism
The last decade has brought some important new technologies for journalists.
In 1991, the first usable portable computers were developed. Around the
same time, "mobile" phones started to make their
entry. In 1994, the internet became commercially available. Within two years,
"everybody" had heard about the internet, and after another two
years the number of available web sites had nine-doubled to more than 20 million
different sites. From being a tool for the American military and educational
institutions, the Internet has become a commodity service, freely available
to anybody who wants to use it.
Journalists, by nature of their professions, are dependent on communication.
Mobile telephony and electronic mail were welcome additions to the array of
possibilities. The Internet as a whole, however, presented a whole new range
of challenges for journalists.
Before the Internet, most communication has been largely unidirectional.
Journalists gather information and bring it back to the news desk. Here it
is edited, and returned to the audience. However, "audience members are
rarely able to use the media to send their own messages. Audience feedback
is infrequent, indirect, and delayed"
The internet changed all this: "What distinguishes the Internet from
other media is its ability to provide feedback quickly and easily from receivers
to senders. The Internet has introduced mass interaction to mass media."
Changes for traditional media
Because of the massive and extraordinary development the internet has experienced,
many media institutions were relatively late making plans for the Internet
future. One Norwegian newspaper, for example, tried to arrange
audio and video broadcasts over the Internet. The project failed miserably,
and cost a significant amount of money
Most newspapers seem to have chosen one of two approaches to the Internet.
The first - and most common - approach is to have selected articles from the
newspaper on the internet. The second approach is the same, but with more
focus on adding content exclusive to the web pages. This allows the internet
pages to have more news aimed at narrow audiences. The latter approach also
offers a better integration with news and user interaction
Even though "Interactivity does not come automatically with two-way
technology", people's attitude towards the media seems to have changed.
As such, the profession of a journalist has changed. The main challenge
is that people's needs have changed. A large part of the audience does not
settle for the information given by the journalist anymore - Information must
include hyperlinks to related news stories, allowing the readers to continue
research on their own.
Everyone can be a journalist - for better or worse.
The internet has changed more than just how the established media profile
themselves. Because the Internet is largely uncontrolled, anybody can say
anything s/he pleases. This has led to many news pages being set up by "The
The story of Matt Drudge "breaking" the story of the Clinton/Lewinsky
affair focused the world's attention on not only Drudge but also the journalism
disseminated via the Internet
Matt Drudge and his Drudge report have had a substantial impact on the
international news world. According to himself, The Drudge report gets roughly
three and a half million readers every day. The fact that so many people read
his work proves that something has been missing from the media world; The
raw, unfiltered news
Drudge has made many enemies during his years of success, many seem to believe
that it is a bad idea to allow "anyone" to be a journalist on line.
In particular, the problem of disintermediation is prominent. There is a motion
towards "migrating to more rushed and unfiltered news coverage"
Drudge, on the other hand, believe that this is exactly what the people need:
"We get to see the kinds of cuts that are made for all kinds of reasons;
endless layers of editors with endless agendas changing bits and pieces, so
by the time the newspaper hits your welcome mat, it had no meaning"
Shapiro (1999) writes about his dislike about what happens when non-journalists
voice their opinions; "On television, we see a rise in live "spot"
news coverage and talk programs where nonreporter "experts" speculate
about events as they unfold". However, Shapiro fails to take into account
that this has been common practice for a long time: "To remain detached
from the observed and from the readers, journalists routinely rely on experts,
who also tend to objectify the public. Every side of an issue has its own
experts, and every side tends to overstate its point of view so that public
issues often are presented in the media as polarized battles."
The educated Journalist - An endangered species?
The question has been raised whether if the new, Internet based web sites
are filled with journalists that are "younger, more concerned with technology
than good journalism, and less ethical than their traditional media counterparts?"
Journalism is not a licensed profession. Strictly, one could argue that Journalism
is not a profession at all, certainly when compared to other occupational
groups such as physicians, nurses, engineers and solicitors. These groups
of professionals cannot practice their profession without a license. If they
violate the rules and regulations of their profession, they may have their
license suspended. With their license, they also lose the right to practice
their profession. In other words: "The definition of a profession includes
the ability to regulate who practices the profession, and journalism has no
Most western countries have a constitution with articles protecting freedom
of speech. Although there has been a lot of discussion about the fact that
you do not need to have a license to practice journalism, issuing such licenses
would be practically impossible. Especially, in the USA this has been an issue.
However, introducing licensing on journalism practice would be an infringement
on the constitution ("Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom
of speech, or of the press"
Although the UK lacks laws defending freedom of expression, the UK has officially
agreed to the Human Rights declaration, which states: "Everyone has the
right to freedom of opinion and expression through any media" (article
19). This effectively makes it impossible for the UK to introduce licensing
on journalism practice.
Besides from it being strictly impossible imposing licensing on journalism,
one could try and consider what makes a good journalist. In other words: Do
you need a journalism degree to be a good journalist? The answer is simple:
"One of my tutors at the university told his students that the engineering
degree in itself had no value. It merely proved that you might be able to
think as an engineer and understood the minimum required basics"
Matt Drudge is one of the people who has understood this: "I don't maintain
that I am licensed or have credentials. I created my own" (Drudge 1998)
By virtue of the number of readers Drudge gets for his pages every day, he
gains his credentials.
Technology, in particular the internet, has drastically changed the way journalists
do their job. The revolution has not yet stopped, and the next few years will
unquestionably bring quite some interesting changes. The main difference is
that the means of publishing has shifted from exclusively allowing journalists
to speak, to allowing anybody to speak. A journalism education, then, must
mean more than getting a degree. A qualitative and creative approach to journalism
is free for everybody. The challenge for journalism students lies in getting
the upper hand when it comes to professional and technical skills.
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