The Geography of News in Digital Times
The article “The Geography of News in Digital Times” by Mike Gasher, is a well written article that talks about journalism in the old days, in comparison to now. Gasher answers the questions such as: “What's New?” and “What's News?” He says websites are changing the nature of newspaper since everyone is now able to access them freely online. Newspapers are going from being “private goods” to “public goods.” He mentions that there are limits to how many newspapers there can be printed, but when it's online, there is virtually no limit to the number of users. In addition, online accessibility also makes the information available to people across larger areas. Therefore, it can be almost assured that the online version of a newspaper will be more popular than the hardcopy version because it's a public good and it's available to a larger population.
It makes total sense, it's absolutely rational, and it's free! Why would anyone forfeit their savings for a hard-copy newspaper, when they can get it for free on the Internet? The same goes for the promoters: Why pay more for a newspaper advertisement slot when you can promote online for cheaper or even free at times and have more eyes watching? However, this revolution observed in the journalism industry does have repercussions.
By definition, journalism is the ability of the transmission of information by means of a broaden range of media (Wikipedia 2009). Journalism comes in many different forms - newspapers, magazines, radio, television, internet, and even cell phones (Wikipedia 2009). Journalists - writers or editors - are the rulers of conveying information and opinion in modern society. According to BBC journalist, Andrew Marr, “News is what the consensus of journalists determines it to be” (Reid 2006). The recent growth and increased prevalence of online journalism has been a tremendously pivotal era in the evolution of both print and the functions of media. By analyzing the continuous innovation of printing technologies throughout history, as well as examining the added benefits experienced by users of online journalism, one can acknowledge the positive impact that online journalism is having on the world.
The Evolution of Print:
In the early existence of print, the method of woodblock printing was widely used. In East Asia and surrounding regions, woodblock printing was the method used to make numerous compositions. Carving words, pictures, or symbols bit by bit into huge stones was difficult, tedious, and time consuming for people of that time. Due to the shear amount of literature that they produced, people of that era became skillful in carving (Wikipedia 2009). However their skill was limited and the task was still very troublesome because of the lack of technology.
Later as the years passed, the Chinese were the first to invent movable type - a system of printing that uses movable components to reproduce elements of a document. This innovation proved to be a major stepping stone for upcoming technologies (Wikipedia 2009). With the Chinese setting the stage for bigger and better things in the technology of print, the most fundamental mechanism in the history of the print industry was introduced: Gutenberg's printing press of 1439. Though it was not automated, Gutenberg's printing press managed to publish books at a speed incomprehensible when compared to previously used methods such as woodblock printing. Gutenberg's printing invention had to be operated by two or more people who had to make sure to frequently text-blocks making it a very lengthy and tedious procedure. In 1450, Johannes Guttenberg took the Chinese invention of movable type and improved upon it. Even today after many years we use the same method as he had invented back then using lead, tin, and antimony (Lazor 2007). This event was a great milestone in the evolution of print.
After all these developments, one other discovery was made which brought journalism to a whole new level, the Internet (Wikipedia 2009). A journalist used to once have a slogan - “all the news that's fit to print” (Reid 2006). The growing popularity of viewing newspapers online is really making the papers feel the pinch. Never before the existence of the internet had there been so much free quality newspaper content available to the general public (Reid 2006). The internet has brought major changes to the print and journalism industry. For example, an ideal candidate for a journalist position in a paper company would have to be a reputable writer, have numerous credentials, and would have to be generally well qualified. However, all that has changed. Companies looking for online journalists now have the luxury of utilizing the work of amateur, freelance, and I reporters who might just have the best coverage of a particular news worthy event (Moor 2006). The internet has created a vast opportunity for amateur writers to gain recognition from major newspaper companies and possibly start their career by taking an unconventional route. Also, though the writing expectations have become low, they do require certain additional basic skills to go along with. An editor at OrlandoSentinel.com has listed the qualities he expects now from a journalist; basic journalism skills - specifically news judgment; detail-oriented collaborators capable of editing and copyediting, not technical producers; people who understand the unique attributes of web as it pertains journalism; people who have beginners experience in HTML, RSS and podcasting; and bloggers (Moor 2006).
From an economic perspective, the main argument that critics have against the rise of online journalism is that it will cause the major newspaper companies to incur tremendous profit losses. However, using simple economic intuition one can see that this will not be the case. A simple formula for a firm's profit is: Profit (P) = Revenue (R) - Cost (C), where Revenue (R) = Price (P) x Quantity (Q) (Braddy 2009). Critics believe that since many people will stop reading hardcopy newspapers for which they have to pay, and instead read the newspaper online free of charge (Reid 2006). The result of this assumption would be a decrease in revenues, since less people will be buying their paper. However, a vital factor that must be considered is the potential for revenue through online journalism. Pick up any newspaper and you will see many advertisements from various external brands. Of course, these companies have to pay the newspaper company in order to advertise their product. Now in the case of online advertising, the news paper should and will be able to charge more for advertising slots one sole reason: firms that want to advertise should have to pay more for online ad slots because online ads are exposed to many more people than ads in newspapers. Therefore, the revenue that the newspaper company loses when people stop reading hardcopy newspapers is made up for by charging higher advertisement fee's for online slots. On the cost side of the equation, there are numerous factors that suggest that newspaper companies can lower costs as a result of online journalism. For example, by posting material online they save money on materials, labor, and process of producing newspapers. When distribution costs, maintenance costs, and other such costs are considered it is easy to see the potential for cost reduction. All in all, by utilizing online journalism in a strategic manner, newspaper companies can increase revenues and lower costs resulting in higher profit. This economic analysis provides a valid and substantial argument against the opinion of critics who believe that the popularity of online journalism will be detrimental to newspaper companies' profits. The introduction of online journalism has brought unprecedented changes to the evolution of print media. The production method has exponentially improved due to the newspaper industries' utilization of the internet.
The Evolution of Media:
During the young stages of journalism, there was no criterion to help decide what constitutes news worthiness. What used to be news, were only events that occurred and one may want to know; it was that simple. Now the industry has progressed throughout the years and has set standards to judge whether an event should be considered to be news. This is because those standards are what help the newspaper companies produce quality journalism valued by users, which results in profits for the newspaper company (Gasher 2002). One characteristic of quality news reporting is neutrality: not influenced by the beliefs of the reporter (Gasher 2002). This characteristic is largely overlooked by journalists which results in publications that are extremely biased. With the invention of internet and transformation of manual print to digitalized times, the mislead observations of news journalists have been corrected through the means of “blogs”. These informal outlets are methods of communication that are usually run by individuals whose journalism is not constrained by the biased views of major newspaper companies. Therefore, online journalism has provided a medium of exchange that allows readers to formulate their own thoughts instead of being manipulated by the mass media.
Online journalism is very successful due to the fact that online articles contain information about events that “impact” people's lives and events that bring change to them (Gasher 2002). This is a great strategy for news businesses. Another great new feature that is only possible through online journalism is frequent updating. A developing story can be posted at first, and updated continuously as it unfolds so that users are constantly informed on the situation. Online users visit news websites frequently and these websites are available to a much wider audience around the world. This fact can be seen as beneficial when discussing special interests of people. Mainstream interests such as business, politics, medicine, and technology can be found in any major newspaper. However, special interests such as the latest celebrity gossip may not be as easy to find. Therefore, the widely accessible online journals serve as a great tool for those in distant places such as Japan that might want to keep up to date on the latest Hollywood fashions. Basically, the presence of online journalism provides access for more people to news that is deemed peculiar, and not so mainstream.
From the stone carvings of early East Asia all the way up to the Gutenberg printing press and finally the revolutionary internet, print has evolved sequentially over time. Constant innovation and improvement upon previous technologies has been successful in providing more efficient, cheaper, and more effective print methods. The effect of online journalism on the evolution of print is unquestionable because of the breakthrough possibilities that it has brought. These new possibilities include but are not limited to greater accessibility to a greater number of people, the availability of mainstream as well as peculiar news to people across the world, and of course potential for greater profits for news printing businesses. The role that online journalism has played in the evolution of print and the evolution of media has brought this world to a new level. With the innovative minds of today working away at the next big thing, we can be assured that further advancements in the world of print and media are only a matter of time.
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