Digital Technology has not only had an impact on the things we consume, but the whole world around us. Significant changes, particularly in the last 20 years, include the evolvement of on-line technologies such as blogging, social media and news platforms which have completely revolutionised and transformed news reporting. Yet, thankfully, digital technology hasn’t completely demolished the traditional reporting methods such as ‘print’ and ‘broadcast’ platforms, but has simply offered new and innovative ways to report and consume the news.
The printing press saw the beginning of journalism; a machine created by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, this new invention was as novel as the internet, yet equally as disruptive and for the first time, mass communication across the world was possible. The printing press redeployed power similar to the internet nowadays, by mechanising work previously done by scribes, reducing the cost of copying and therefore spreading information more efficiently . More successful than an earlier attempt nearly 300 years before by Chinese artisan Pi Sheng, who used moveable type to print. This invention was less successful due to the complexity of the Chinese alphabet, making it unfeasible for worldwide use. In 1997, ‘Time-Life Magazine voted the printing press the most important invention of the last thousand years, due to it enabling mass communication; making books affordable and bringing literacy to millions.’ . This new innovation spread initially across Europe to over 110 different countries until the first modern printing press arrived in England in 1476.
Following the release of the printing press machine, the first newspaper in the world was the ‘Acta Diurna’ published in Rome, around 59 BC. In 1605, the first printed weekly newspaper to be published in Antwerp was called Relation. . Subsequently, the first English Language newspaper was the ‘Oxford Gazette’ published in 1665, followed by the first English daily printed newspaper ‘The Daily Courant’ in 1702 by Edward Mallet . When the industrial revolution started in the 18th century, the design of the Gutenberg changed slightly; new materials were used in order to increase the productivity, this along with the advancement of materials and technology. During this time printing presses that required 90% less force allowed for double the printing was created, introducing a ‘steam press’ that allowed for over 1100 copies per hour rather than the previous 220 from the old cast iron. From the pivotal point of the industrial revolution, the printing press continued to improve throughout the years.
Most new news mediums only became available to the audiences once the right technologies were invented; from the invention of the telegraph, and ultimately the telephone network to the more recent mobile and wireless/ internet enabled devices that allow us to search the world’s information via search engines. These inventions had huge ramifications on journalism and to every aspect of society. The Telegraph enabled reporters to write international stories the day they happened. The telephone allowed reporters to phone stories in from their location, speeding up the process of creating a publication, and enabling stories to get into print on that day’s edition that may have had to wait for the following day previously. These new inventions in technology ‘saw news stories travel quicker to the audiences than ever before’.
The internet first became publically available in the UK in 1991 and three years later in 1993/94 “journalists made their first tentative steps onto the internet” . During October 1993 The University of Florida’s journalism school launched what is believed was the first journalism site on the internet, closely followed by the UK’S first electronic news website: The Telegraph in November 1994. Later came the BBC Online in 1997, which saw the start of news organisations transferring to the new exciting online medium.
The beginning of digital journalism saw journalists travel around looking for stories with a camera, laptops and satellite telephones, to transmit their finds halfway across the globe in time for the next day’s edition. In comparison to nowadays, simply a phone can be used to take pictures, record audio, write notes, telephone contacts, and even research contacts and information for an upcoming story.
One specific event in which ultimately saw the change in how news was reported, relating closely to digital technology is the coverage of 9/1, it saw many techniques come to life that are used regularly today:
User-Generated-Content – The flip-cam gained momentum on 9/11 for witnesses of the disaster and news stations wanted visuals, sounds, and experiences of what was happening on Manhattan streets, which the majority of were created by people at the scene/nearby.
Social media – although social media didn’t exist in 2001, real-time news meant that when a national network reported it, the audience then had the story and its respective local angles. Today, a tweet or a Facebook post will trend or a video will go viral — meaning we all have news.
Another key event in which changed transformed some of the obdurate ‘reporting’ aspects of the reporting of journalism and the emergence of – although over 20 years shows the beginning of TV journalism – was President Kennedy’s Assassination in the USA in 1963. Before the coverage of this breaking news, most journalists wanted to work for print and broadcast platforms, with the idea of TV as a news platform was out of the question, purely just seen as an entertainment source. Yet as the news of the assassination unfolded the TV became a key aspect in reporting it, with broadcast and print platforms being unable to show moving images of the shocking events – many at the time described it as ‘the age of TV beginning’.
Within the United Kingdom the first World War was one of the first main events reported seeing the start of significant events in ‘bias’ journalism, where and how many newspapers tried to protect their audiences in by keeping vital information from them. Many newspapers reported ‘fabricated stories of German barbarism’ . Reporters and Newspapers taking on a bias angle for news stories was an issue that was upheld through a lot of the journalism timeline (essentially what gives a lot of journalists a bad name). This has become easier and easier to do throughout the ages for organisations, with videos and audio being taken easily out of context. Many reports have found organisations to present their own views onto their audience through online campaigns and other news mediums: ‘listeners of BBC Radio 4’s coverage of Brexit are two and a half times more likely to hear the opinions of a pro-EU guest speaker than an anti-EU guest’ . This shows how new technology can be used to the organisations advantage in displaying bias views/opinions.
One catalyst for the change in how news is reported is social media platforms, providing audience with the opportunity to choose what they read, and contribute their opinions and even report themselves. This shift from the traditional media platforms, sometimes called the ‘social media revolution’. This became the birth of a democratic movement that emphasizes ‘some of journalism’s key factors: transparency, honesty, and giving a voice to the person who doesn’t have one.’ .
Social media has given journalists new ways to report the news by helping them with newsgathering and crowdsourcing. According to , this has helped them to collect more material on news stories and has provided access to a wider range of voices, helping to source first-hand witnesses through tweets and posts; making it easier for journalists to track down those who might have an accurate account of an event. News organisations have had to stay on top of this trend, creating social media accounts and regularly updating them with news to keep up to date with ever-changing world news. Popular organisations like the BBC and ITV have social media accounts across all platforms, BBC have an official Facebook account but also have multiple Twitter accounts like: @BBCNews, @BBCBreaking, @BBCWorld, @BBCSport and numerous others. This wide range of social media accounts on one platform narrows down specific aspects of the news, giving the audience the option to choose what aspect they want to consume.
With specific reference to the BBC, organisations have faced struggles in keeping up with social media, as news has now had immediate; and available on new/multiple platforms throughout the whole day. Using social media has created many issues: starting with privacy; what are the boundaries, with sites like Facebook and Twitter, users are entitled to tweet about issues like pregnancies, affairs and finance, which leaves traditional media values in ignorance. There also come real issues with truth, accuracy, integrity, verification and independence. Sources should be checked and checked again before reliable news organisations like the BBC share information – creating another issue, with news travelling quicker than ever across social media, with no way of turning-back from information posted once it’s online, meaning the audience need to be able to rely on news organisations to provide truthful and accurate information.
Moreover, BBC also expressed the three main pros of social media when it comes to news reporting and how it’s early presence on the web enabled it to spot the new and exciting possibilities: ‘Newsgathering, Audience engagement, a platform.’
With the positives of using digital technology within the journalism career comes the damaging prospects it has on it: the downward spiral on job numbers, the poor salaries and the high expectations of journalists regarding the speed in which the news reaches the audience.
Beginning with the little job opportunities for journalists; First the obvious; digitization has meant a decrease in equipment-based jobs. Audio and video editing can now be done by a reported or producer, videotapes no longer require lighting or sound technicians and a TV studio can be replaced by a big desktop set up known as ‘Parkervision’, which needs just one director/switcher. For example, reporters at ‘Canadian Press’ are expected to file copy, then do a voice report for radio, and shoot video as well. Sometimes they do online work after that. Ultimately meaning the development in the online departments hasn’t made up for the huge losses of more traditional work. The term ‘citizen journalism’ has also had an impact on the job potential for journalists, seeing a growth in numbers of amateur columnists and opinion writers; the ability to write and report news becoming less of a novelty for those in the profession.
The decline of salaries for journalists mainly concerns freelance journalists; their pay rates have shifted and have rapidly declined over the past decade. Over the last 30 years there have been fewer clients and engagers for the journalist to sell to. It has become evident that young, new-on-the-scene journalists are the most affected, with ‘1,251 journalists quizzed commented their pay was below the national minimum wage, and many of them struggle to pay their regular bills.’ Showing a serious issue for those who want to become superior in the profession.
The problem with the new speed-driven nature of digital technology has changed the way most newspapers hypothesise their role in the larger news mediums, meaning ‘more newspapers are paying more attention to speed’ . Concepts like ‘live blogging’ and ‘citizen journalism’ have increased pressure for journalists to bring out news first, with the risk of accuracy. Yet a in favour of this technique is the cheap and effective delivery of information, particularly with more and more competition and ‘opportunities for collaboration with companies such as Google’ . For example, most newspapers now update their websites around the clock, releasing news through their social media accounts exactly when the events happen. New media technologies enable and encourage speedy news production; the newspaper industry as a whole is becoming faster in the attempt to be consistent with their competitors’ speeds, such as TV, radio, and other newspapers.
Although for the journalist, the surge of change will bring pressures: the need for multi-skilling, ability to produce rapidly, having less capacity to reflect, having less time to write and possibly a shorter period to verify facts., it is generally accepted that new technologies have revolutionised the world of journalism “they don’t call it the digital revolution for no reason” . This revolution in media has affected the position and roles of journalists within society. Newsrooms are transforming and journalists are transitioning in response to the social, cultural and technological changes that have happened within the last 20 years. Journalists are agreeing that social media has helped massively to gather stories and using news aggregators and subscribing to RSS feeds and blogs tremendously assist them in their work. Meanwhile, news managers and editors suggested that Facebook and Twitter are used for newsgathering especially during breaking news stories, yet many organisations still show some hesitancy in using social media platforms to distribute content down to the fear of losing control of the information and who can use/consume it. Yet, it is inevitable that social media will and already has succeeded in changing things for better or worse.
...(download the rest of the essay above)