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Journalism Studies
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The Impact of Technology on Journalism
John Pavlik Available online: 12 Dec 2010

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Internet. 229–237 The Impact of Technology on Journalism JOHN PAVLIK University of Minnesota. more and more journalists spend increasingly less of their time out in the eld observing directly the events and processes on which they report. there were trials of newspaper delivery by telephone in the early 1900s. Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone not only made possible widespread telecommunications. KEY WORDS: Digital. and always has been. Journalism. and (4) the relationships between or among news organizations. and sometimes distributing news via the telephone. Since the intro2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd . (2) the nature of news content. journalists and their many publics. for better or worse. journalists and their many publics. or news-gathering when the journalist is on the scene. The article concludes with a proposed research agenda for the study of journalism and technological change. USA Downloaded by [ ] at 07:04 22 September 2011 ABSTRACT This article proposes that changing technology in uences journalism in at least four broad areas: (1) how journalists do their work. Technological change affects: (1) the way journalists do their job. distributing information about the important events of the day has been enabled. if not often driven. In fact. World Wide Web and digital video are perhaps the most visible examples of technologies that are transforming journalism. Online. The Way Journalists Do Their Job Technology has. competitors. Since Julius Caesar ordered the Acta Diurna in AD 59. Although new media such as the Internet. pp. This article proposes that technological change in uences journalism in at ISSN 1461-670X Print/ISSN 1469-9699 Online/00/020229-09 Ó least four ways. and (4) the nature of the relationships between and among news organizations. it also laid the foundation for mass literacy and the invention of the newspaper. (3) the structure or organization of the newsroom. Technology Journalism has always been shaped by technology. frequently conducting interviews by telephone. Although the best reporting is.Journalism Studies. it also transformed how journalists gather and report the news. exerted a fundamental in uence on how journalists do their jobs. news sources. so-called “shoe-leather” reporting. Volume 1. the history of journalism is in many ways de ned by technological change. by technological advances. sponsors and those who seek to regulate or control the press. (2) the content of news. (3) the structure and organization of the newsroom and the news industry. Gutenberg’s printing press not only made possible the printing of the Bible and other religious texts. 2000. including audiences. Number 2. transformed later in the 1970s into the widely popular audiotex services offered by more than 1000 daily newspapers in the United States.

but it is not always possible via the telephone to be sure of the nonverbal communication that accompanies a verbal answer. When reporting a breaking story after hours journalists try to reach the source rst almost every time. Media in Cyberspace. Amazingly. websites are playing a signi cant role in delivering information to media. nothing. In the analog world. Many. With the development of the Internet the problem can be even worse. sometimes. Fully 93 per cent of respondents say they or their staffs use online services in some way at least occasionally. Some might ask what is wrong with that? Perhaps. Almost half the respondents say they or their staff go online every day (more than half for newspapers). plans to make all of its raw census data available on its website not only for journalists but for all citizens to sort.230 JOHN PAVLIK duction of the telephone to the newsroom in the early 1900s. or when live sources are not available. the Web and Usenet newsgroups together were named by 9 per cent of respondents as their primary source of story ideas— together. the US Department of the Census (www. making it both a highly reliable and timely source for journalists covering political campaigns). With increasing amounts of public records and corporate information published in complete form online (e. The authors’ four-survey trend Only 9 per cent of the respondents said they had no individual Internet access. if not most. The editorial and production processes of journalism are also greatly in uenced and shaped by technological change. journalists have used telecommunications technology to gather news.fec. but live sources remain far and away journalists’ biggest sources of story ideas. Similarly. Moreover. about the same as newswires. www. interviews are conducted via the telephone. sift and otherwise analyze. the Internet can also help to improve the quality of news-gathering. compared to a little more than a third of the entire sample in 1995. More than half of all respondents can now access the Internet from work. in real time the data it collects on campaign contributions. Here are some of the most notable survey ndings: Almost all journalists now use online tools for researching and reporting. the limits of technology often made it impossible to work close to deadline with- Downloaded by [ ] at 07:04 22 September 2011 . Only 2 per cent say they or their staffs absolutely never use online technology. check facts and even nd sources off the Web. but indicate that they turn to company websites second for information. especially when on deadline or in after-hours situations. from list-serves and chat rooms. Many journalists are going online to obtain story ideas. the Federal Elections Commission now publishes on its web site.census. is based on more than 2500 responses and shows that journalists increasingly use the Internet and other online re· · · · · sources in their work. e-mail. with journalists sometimes even conducting interviews via e-mail. Most respondents indicate that they are using the Web for gathering images and other materials that had to be carried physically to the newsroom just a few years ago. Research by public relations professional Dan Middleberg and journalism professor Steve Ross provides a revealing look at how journalists use the Internet. it is not always possible to be sure you are really speaking to the person you think you are speaking to.g. reporters can now effectively use online tools to gather news and information. During non-business hours. Conversely.

New Orleans). small markets.thestreet. digital online tools make it increasingly possible to work right up to deadline. Of course. largely enabled. television news reports featured longer shots. was performed by a union member under strict rules. Topping says (in comments at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. No one can dispute the increased speed of news ow. this might have signi cant negative implications for television news. the transition to digital is both a threat and an opportunity. online world. In the digital newsroom any journalist can perform any editorial or production operation on the video. It is perhaps some consolation that the tools are increasingly easy to use. As former CBS News veteran Bud Benjamin once quipped. Today. as individual reporters come under increasing pressure to act as oneperson news and production crews. and will soon be as easy to use as is a word processor for editing text. 1993). At Each individual function. Reports on online nancial news sites. Edits became faster-paced. in fact. the ABC owned TV station’s senior vice president who oversaw the implementation of the digital system (he is also former general manager of the station). technologies and as such reporters have always depended on them for the reporting or storytelling of journalism. where inexperienced reporters will be asked to serve as one- person crews. The danger is greatest in smaller markets. such as www. such as changing a tape or making an edit. shots were shortened and the narrative became much faster-paced. 1999. content is once again undergoing a profound transformation. The opportunity is especially great for stations in major markets with the staff size and experience and other resources to implement a digital system fully and successfully. especially signi cant in opening up possibilities for on-deadline operations in video journalism. circling the globe instantly via the Internet. the rules imposed by the broadcasting unions greatly constrained the production of television news. the San Francisco ABC af liate.IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON JOURNALISM 231 out risking a complete breakdown in the reporting process. History is replete with examples of how more recent technologies also have shaped the content of what we call news. in the analog world. Adam Clayton Powell III. sometimes on major stories that occur in relatively remote. or news MTV-style. Thus. at a cost of roughly $ 22 million. Powell’s study showed that prior to the use of video. August 4. now vice president of technology for the Freedom Forum and a veteran of the television and radio newsroom (with many years as a producer for CBS News and vice president of news and information for National Public Radio) conducted a study for the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center that showed how the introduction of video in the 1970s transformed the storytelling of network news once produced on lm (Powell. Moreover. In today’s digital. the digital newsroom is complete. it became “NTV”. None of these rules apply in the digital age. fewer edits and more slowly paced narrative. by technological change. if not driven. Stories break at the speed of light. any reporter can produce video. The introduction of video exerted a powerful in uence on network news. According to Jim Topping. Writing and language are. can in uence Downloaded by [ ] at 07:04 22 September 2011 . editing in the eld and/or on deadline. The Nature of News Content Technology also has exerted a profound in uence on the content of news.

This year almost one-third of publications’ websites allow the Web to scoop their print product. the 1999 Middleberg/Ross survey also provides useful data on online content trends for newspapers online. as day traders react to the instant reporting of company performance reports. All this has given new-millennium meaning to the old observation of journalist A. The growth of online publishing is simply tremendous. Only 9 per cent of respondents this year said · Downloaded by [ ] at 07:04 22 September 2011 their publication had no plans to go online at all. is already online! That is double the 25 per cent reported 2 years ago. Over 40 per cent of editors or their staffs write copy that ends up on their own publications’ websites. not also appearing in their print versions. Fiftyve per cent say that their publication. The question is whether it is better journalism. having had 8 or more hours to check the facts. “I can write better than anyone who can write faster.232 JOHN PAVLIK market performance in seconds. Partly. it depends how it is regarded. West African immigrant Amadou Diallo was gunned down by four plain-clothes police of cers in the middle of the night as Diallo stepped through the vestibule of his apartment building in the Bronx. Digital technology is also transforming the nature of storytelling and the presentation of news online. pronouncements from Federal Chairman Alan Greenspan or even rumors on Internet chat-rooms and bulletin boards. In 1999. New York. or would you rather have learned about the shooting moments after it occurred as it was reported via the Web. Original content being published online has seen signi cant growth. CO shooting in the United States in the spring of 1999. Would you rather have waited to nd out about the shooting until the next day when your local newspaper would have reported about it in the morning paper. with little time for fact-checking and a fairly high likelihood of some errors? Although no one has a de nitive answer to this question. It is being supplanted increasingly by immersive and interactive multimedia news reports that can give readers/viewers a feeling of presence at news events like never before. The four of cers red 41 shots at the unarmed Diallo as he reached for his wallet to presumably present identi cation to the of cers. Consider the case of the Columbine. Consider the case of the collaboration between online crime news service apbonline and the Center for New Media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in the United States. and faster than anyone who can write better. at least sometimes. The data show the following. The oncebasic inverted pyramid news-writing style is becoming obsolete in the online news world. Last year only 7 per cent of newspapers with websites said half or more of the site’s content was original. J. or portions of it. 48 per cent said their websites are at least half original. used a 360-degree video camera to record the site of the shooting. up from 17 per cent last year. The apbonline/Columbia collaborative news team. For magazines. featuring Columbia graduate students from journalism and a number of other elds. More than half of responding journalists indicate they use the Web to distribute news. · · · The trend for online scoops continues. This year almost 20 per cent of newspapers with websites said original content was at least half. Liebling. Posting the omnidirectional video on the apbonline web site .” There is no debating the ascendancy of high-speed news.

The lines between advertising and editorial are blurring. the collaborative team report enables visitors to explore the vestibule on their own. The rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web as media of mass communication has made possible the publication of some 5000 news sites maintained by classic news organizations. and the doorway and mailbox inside the vestibule. especially online communication. television. on the other hand. which includes all the content of the day’s paper edition plus much more) any time and at no cost (all that is required is a computer with Internet connection. Suddenly. available free of charge in many libraries across the country and around the world). The Structure and Organization of the Newsroom and the News Industry Technology is also exerting a strong in uence on both the structure of the newsroom and of the news industry. as banner advertisements are featured on many online newspaper front pages. Traditionally. this in uence is immediately obvious. news magazines and broadcast/cable news providers (www. radio and other news providers all nd themselves in headto-head competition. These sites provide global access to news from all parts of the world. Not all of this is due to technology (much is due to economics). but it is engaging and in some way perhaps comes closer to the truth by removing one level of ltering.apbonline. newspaper and other .ajr. messages written by police and other visitors to the site. in marked contrast to the traditions of news reporting based on linear narration. An important question is. is affecting the centralization and hierarchical character of the newsroom. in newsrooms across the United States. On one level. but technology certainly plays a part by making ef ciencies of scale and distribution irresistible. “what will happen to local news?” A study by Columbia University professors Eli Noam and Robert Freeman reported in Television Quarterly shows that while diversity of news and other media is growing at national and international levels. In all likelihood there will be a consolidation in this new global news marketplace. Members of the audience can use this 360-degree view to examine the crime scene on their own. including bullet-holes. the visitors to the site develop and discover their own technology. It is also true that the changing economics and technology of online news are reshaping the traditional separation of editorial and business functions. tilting or zooming anywhere inside the vestibule. Many sites feature links from their book review sections directly to online book sellers. have never had it so good. In this fashion. panning. as there has been with other “traditional” media. anyone anywhere in the world can read the New York Times (online version. potentially extracting additional details overlooked by the reporter or even the police. it is shrinking at the local level. Whether the thousands of news providers now online will nd successful business models to support their online operations is another matter. Is it better journalism? I do not know. Consumers. examining the physical space and artifacts left from the shooting. or so-called separation of “church and state”. a feature attractive to many online consumers but one that sometimes raises troubling ethical concerns about the possible in uence of advertising on editorial content. For the rst time. Within the newsroom.IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON JOURNALISM 233 Downloaded by [ ] at 07:04 22 September 2011 (www. including newspapers. a practice frowned upon in most printed newspapers.

roughly 60 per cent of the cost of producing the average newspaper.ucjournal. can print the product and read it on paper. with an editor or news director. For at least 500 years. sponsors and those who seek to regulate or control the press. Most US newspapers and broadcast news organizations. The intent of this communication is a combination of persuasion and information. Publisher Levor Oldham said common sense was behind his reasoning. has been greatly reduced (virtually eliminated. there is much more frequent communication between newsroom personnel and audience members. especially in online editions. Also emerging in today’s journalism is the so-called combined newsroom. The broadcast model emphasizes a one (or few) to many communication ow. The reader. the distance between top and bottom in the newsroom is much reduced.” Whether the free online paper can maintain its advertising base will largely determine its pro tability. Downloaded by [ ] at 07:04 22 September 2011 The Nature of the Relationships Between and Among News Organizations and their Publics Perhaps most importantly. It will be an interesting case to watch and may be the beginning of a trend. the basic relationship between publishers and their publics has been de ned by a “broadcast” model of communication. Utah is the fourth-ranked state in the nation in terms of Internet penetration at 46 per cent. provide most of their news coverage with the intent to inform the public about a variety of events and issues important to their communities and society in general. for example. Moreover. and then the information gathered is packaged for distribution via any of a number of media outlets. This dramatically in uences story selection and coverage. news sources. of course. The cost of printing and with little feedback between source and receiver (or journalist and audience) and a relatively anonymous. the future of newspapers is on the Web. In places such as or thestreet. radio. heterogeneous audience. the paper decided to distribute via only the Internet from August 5. technological change is fundamentally reshaping the relationships between and among news organizations. 1999).234 JOHN PAVLIK newsrooms have been very hierarchically organized. almost in military fashion. if preferred. in fact). journalists and their many publics. The Orem (Utah) Daily Journal is reported to be the rst daily newspaper to go online and stop publishing a printed product http:// Newspaper distribution is also being fundamentally rede ned by the online revolution. CNN and Bloomberg are perhaps the best examples of news organizations that have created combined news-gathering operations. but in print the paper had a circulation of 7500. The Tribune Company. competitors. as more newsrooms become atter in their structure. including audiences. 1999. stories are assigned to reporters who gather news. since Gutenberg invented the printing press in Mainz. “Clearly. newspaper or Internet. exerting powerful control over the news operation. Germany. It is not yet clear what the online readership of the paper is. The Internet is changing this signi cantly. often in the shape of e-mail. This combined news-gathering operation is highly ef cient and cost-effective . establishing the potential for substantial online readership. After 9 months in print. followed by other of cers in the chain of command. although there is still an editor-in-chief. Editorial and opinion pages and columns are in- . such as television. Here.

especially in newspaper opinion and editorial pages where considerable resources are employed to shape public opinion and behaviors with regard to important issues. news in the world of analog media has largely followed this model of one-way.rst-century news operations. typically corporate or governmental. Moreover. Whether via newspapers or magazines. In this model. Cohen summed this up in The Press and Foreign Policy (1963) when he said “The press may not be successful much of the time in telling us what to think. Public relations scholar James Grunig has described several paradigms of communication in a corporate context.IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON JOURNALISM 235 tended to in uence public opinion on matters of public importance. asymmetrical communication. but also in traditional or classic journalism. of its publics. often shaping reporters’ knowledge and attitudes as much as an initial report may have in uenced the public. No longer can most journalists and editors be content merely to publish the news. especially in the realm of the political sphere where virtually every newspaper attempts to in uence its readers’ voting choices. In these cases in particular. television or radio. but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about. In this model organizations. Thus we are seeing the emergence of what Grunig calls a two-way symmetric model of communication in twenty. networked world of communication is fundamentally altering these models of twentiethcentury journalism. It is asymmetric in the sense that not only is the ow unbalanced. the general news coverage has been shown in research to exert an agenda-setting in uence in society. from an organization to its public or publics. First is the public information model. the ow of communication is much more balanced. audience members have joined in signi cant numbers in online discussions with reporters and editors to debate and discuss coverage of important events. E-mail has become a vital and instantaneous link between readers and reporters. Political scientist Bernard C. This is an accurate description of communication not only in much of the world of public relations. The advent of the digital. with one of the communication participants dominating the ow and impact of communication. but that one party (the message sender/content provider) intends to in uence the opinion. This is especially the case in newspapers and broadcast news operations which have made a signi cant commitment to publishing online. Instead. Another way to view this traditional set of media in uences is in terms of what public relations research tells us about the world of corporate communication. the ow of communication is primarily one directional. although an agenda-setting function may be a by-product of this communication function. the process is becoming much more of a dialog between the press and the public. In this model. helping to shape public opinion in terms of which issues are most important. much more a Downloaded by [ ] at 07:04 22 September 2011 . Although this model has been used to describe much of the process of public relations. The second model relevant to this discussion is what Grunig calls the one-way. asymmetric model of communication. including two that are especially relevant to the traditional analog world of journalism. and perhaps the behavior. The intention is not to persuade. distribute information to the public with the intention of informing the public on matters considered important. it is also clearly descriptive of much of traditional journalism.” This is the foundation for what has become known as the agenda-setting function of the press or the media.

236 JOHN PAVLIK dialog between both or all parties to the communication. sometimes even serving as primary news providers to the public. No one group dominates the process of persuasion. What should be the role of the journalist in a world where citizens can obtain Downloaded by [ ] at 07:04 22 September 2011 their information directly from any source? What are the implications for democracy? Most citizens realize that information sources have a vested interest in slanting the information they provide to re ect positively on their organization or the issues they support. Research Agenda 1. there is an important role for journalism to play in the digital. or the public may increasingly look to primary sources for news. Today. Therefore. not-for-pro ts and governmental agencies are all publishing information meant for direct consumption by the public as well as by journalists. Although this is great for the companies. Although not all news organizations are comfortable with this emerging model. this transformation has made it possible for the traditional sources used by journalists to become content providers themselves. it raises serious questions about the role of journalism in a networked world. Conclusions This article has argued that technological change exerts a profound in uence on journalism in at least four ways: (1) how journalists do their job. all parties in uence each other. Following is a brief outline of a research agenda for the new millennium. journalism. but a global one. literally millions of citizens in the United States and around the world are active participants in the communication process online. The credibility and impartiality of news organizations must be re-established. and perhaps for the public. in effect. most citizens realize that there is an important role for journalists to play in providing impartial reporting on those organizations or events they seek to in uence. but to engage younger audiences. These effects raise a variety of important research questions for investigation in the twenty. . but what that role is must still take shape. the emergence of the Internet and World Wide Web as a medium of mass communication in the 1990s is rede ning the notion of who is a journalist. and surveys by organizations such as Jupiter Communications and others show that the public often views online sources as just as credible as those in the off-line world. (2) the content of news: (3) the structure of the newsroom and the news industry: and (4) the relationship between news organizations and their publics. Liebling once observed that: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. often bypassing the traditional news gatekeepers altogether. How are journalists using the feedback function in the online arena. Rather. or public. virtually anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can. Nevertheless. companies. We see much of this developing in what is known as civic. networked world. at least to some degree. the credibility of traditional news providers is at an all-time low.J. As a result. many have embraced it as a way to not only serve their communities more effectively. own a printing press and reach not only a local audience.rst century. A. Moreover.” This observation accurately portrayed the world of journalism until the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web as a medium of mass communication in the 1990s. Clearly. Through their web sites. Finally.

Is the speed and ubiquity of news delivery producing a lowering of quality of news (i. Cohen. 3. Middleberg. http://www.IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON JOURNALISM 237 2. http://www. 1999) “Orem. James E. Pavlik and Everette E. Move to Online Publication” sub cyberspacestudy. interest in international sites on the Web continues to grow.html Noam. 5. Jim (1999) “From New Media to News Media”. 4. Source: World Reporter (TM). (1997) “The Media Monopoly and Other Myths”. and Freeman. more errors)? References Carricaburu. Eli M. Powell http://www. Topping.abponline. Utah. http://www. (1963) The Press and Foreign Policy. Dennis (Eds) Demystifying Media Technology.e. Adam Clayton (1993) “Getting the Picture: trends in television news reporting”. Dan and Ross. NJ: Princeton University http://www. Television Quarterly XXIX. as reported by domestic providers or as reported by international sources? 7. August http://www.ajr. often relying heavily on of cial sources and reported by white.middleberg. Downloaded by [ ] at 07:04 22 September 2011 where e-mail transforms audience–reporter relationship? To what extent are reporters using online reporting in place of traditional shoe-leather reporting? How does the combined newsroom affect news quality? Is the blurring of the advertising/ editorial border eroding news credibility? To what extent are online news organizations developing new storytelling formats designed for the online media? Although many American journalists argue that most readers are not interested in international news unless it has a clear impact at home.fec. Mountain View. 1976. Steve (1999) “Media in Cyberspace”.com http://www. CA: May eld Publishing Co. Robert N. male foreign correspondents? 8. KRTBN Knight-Ridder Tribune Business News: The Salt Lake Tribune—Utah Copyright ã KRTBN Knight-Ridder Tribune Business News: The Salt Lake Tribune—Utah Copyright ã 1999 KRTBN Knight Ridder Tribune Business News.htm . panel at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Newspaper to Cease Print Edition. What are the emerging business models to support online journalism? 9. What are the most effective roles for journalism in an age where citizens can increasingly go directly to the source of news? Should journalism focus more on providing context and meaning to the day’s events and issues? 10. To what extent is a possible lack of interest in international news merely a function of how domestic news providers have packaged and selected the news. Journalism Monographs 46 and November. Bernard C. 19–23. Lisa (Jul. http://www. To what extent are readers interested in international news. pp. New Orleans. 6.ucjournal. in: John V.(1976) “Organizations and Public Relations: testing a communication theory”.thestreet.

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