news about news: the antiquation of print media

it’s time to face the news about news, folks! print news may soon be a thing of the past, perhaps making the dystopic story told in EPIC 2014 (a viral video that depicts a “sci-fi” or story of Googlezon taking over through personalized web engines) look less and less like like sci-fi and more like reality! (btw, I interviewed EPIC video maker Robin Sloan as part of the Digital Dissent research…)

Just witness some of the major respected U.S. news outlets including the Chicago Tribune as part of the Tribune Company filing for bankruptcy, the San Jose Mercury News as part of MediaNews facing deep cuts, The Denver Post facing the axe, and eminent news feeds like Reuters forced to join with online upstart Politico Network while print, broadcast, and cable news shrink their news staff and news rooms, putting thousands of journalists out of work…

perhaps the fate of newspapers will be to do good not through informing citizens but warming them, as in this story of making coats for homeless people with shredded newspaper lining.
One Man’s Vision for Newspapers’ Future, as Insulation

Keep up to date on the latest through this useful index of NY Times news stories on the fate of news and technologies:
Times Topics: Newspapers

One thought on “news about news: the antiquation of print media

  1. Lynne Post author

    In Digital Democracy (2008) Internet technologies are shown to successfully serve as venues for resistance to mainstream media propaganda.

    How about trying the following rhetorical – and hermeneutical – spin on the digitization of news(papers)? Zooming out and away from stats about (respected) newspapers loosing readership and (excellent) journalists loosing jobs, let us think of what is being “lost” in the switch from paper to online media. Granted, presentation of news online may differ from that in print, visually and stylistically, but isn’t a journalist’s ambition to reach as wide an audience as possible? Isn’t that exactly what the Internet provides? Let us throw in a weighty environmental bonus – “trees are being saved”! (unless it is deemed necessary to re-purpose them for winter jackets insulation?:))

    The switch of medium aside, with all the re-training and reconceptualization effort that that entails, what is there to worry about? *Content* – which is what news is (at its best). Is there anything that would force deterioration/loss of content in the jump from print to online? For the sake of argument, what if the exact same excellent journalists/editors were the ones to provide/ratify online news content? So, the actual danger to *Quality* would seem to come not from the change of medium per se but from the restructuring of *Agency* – added skills and new ways of thinking, on the technical side, but also massive bottom up inflows of (at best) amateurs. The latter cannot possibly be at the level of penmanship and political/historical judgement ability of an experienced (or at least specially trained) professional.

    Notice however, that the same developments that are hailed as affording resistance, not least of which through the Web, to news “enframing” (in the Heideggerian sense of “Gestell”) in mainstream media, cannot possibly and drastically reverse into being detrimental in the case of newspaper digitization. Granted, Agency restructuring would involve major expertise-authority (aka power) structure reorganization, with massive bottom up inflows, the outright rejection of which would seem at best dogmatic.

    I’d say that content deterioration comes not from medium substitution but from content substitution, which has been rampaging in print media for quite awhile now – e.g., advertising eating up the space for stories, color and graphics competing for readers’ attention, factological analysis in stories themselves being replaced by narration saturated with flashy-witty turn of phrase.

    The insidious development is thus commercialism (in its deepest implications) taking over historic/historiographic substance. And yes, it can be even more influential online due to the concerted assault on the human sensorium through images, sound… soon enough tactility as well, toward which technical progress is advancing (cf. haptic interfaces).

    So, what kind of journalism would it take to keep the audience’s attention on factographic content and away form the ludic component sugarpill-ing commercialization?

    With Andrew Feenberg (Transforming Technology, 2004, and elsewhere), among others, I’ll maintain that technology design choices are politically loaded choices, and that whatever may be supporting technodeterministic interpretations of the observed tendencies can effectively be circumvented by (re)negotiating said choices in a way that would democratically incorporate citizens in design decisions (broadly speaking) rather than disempowering the audience into politically – and intellectually – passive consumers, in the process inversing journalism (and its purveyors) into its own negation.

Comments are closed.