Have new communications technologies revitalized the public sphere, or become the commercial tool for an increasingly un-public, undemocratic news media? Are changing journalistic practices damaging the nature of news, or are new media allowing journalists to do more journalism and to engage the public more effectively?
With massive changes in the media environment and its technologies, interrogating the nature of news journalism is one of the most urgent tasks we face in defining the public interest today. The implications are serious, not just for the future of the news, but also for the practice of democracy.
In a thorough empirical investigation of journalistic practices in different news contexts, New Media, Old News explores how technological, economic, and social changes have reconfigured news journalism, and the consequences of these transformations for a vibrant democracy in our digital age. The result is a piercing examination of why understanding news journalism matters now more than ever. It is essential reading for students and scholars of journalism and new media.
Chapter One: Technology Foretold
There is a long tradition of millenarian prophecy in relation to new media.1 It was predicted that the ‘facsimile newspaper’, dropping ‘automatically folded from the home radio receiver’, would rejuvenate the monopolistic American press (Hutchins Commission, 1947: 34–35); citizen's band radio, said to be ‘taking the US by storm’ in 1975, would recreate a sense of community;2 computer-assisted print technology was destined to subvert the established press;3 the camcorder would democratize television, and empower the people (New York Times, 26 June, 1989); the CD-Rom would transform publishing and ‘replace books in classrooms entirely’.4 All these predictions, mostly American, proved to be wrong.5
The case studies that follow look at what was predicted, and what actually happened, in relation to four ‘new media’ developments ...