Journalism is one of the oldest, long lasting, and important professions not only in the United States, but in the world. As early as time, information has been documented and presented. Scribes of ancient empires could be considered early journalists. The field has especially had a huge impact in the development, history, and culture of the United States as a functioning country. The job of the nation’s journalists was to keep the citizens informed of important events. Muckrakers, politically investigative reporters participating in a type of journalism called “yellow journalism”, such as Ida Wells exposed politicians when they were being unjust (King, 2008). In other words, journalists were trusted. Some were even nominated by their peers to become politicians because they were trusted to tell the truth. In recent times, print journalism has lost the national influence it once had. Newspapers and magazines are no longer reaching as large of an audience. Print journalism may be a dying profession due to evolving technology, consumer ideology, and weak finances.
Technology’s Impact on Print
Many experienced journalists believe that the progressing technology and new online establishments are a leading cause in the deterioration of the field. Jerry Buhlman,CEO of Dentsu Aejs Network, explains the importance of technology today by describing the smart phones that half of the population rely on as a type of “second brain”(Kissel, 2013). Journalist, Phillip Meyer, is a strong believer of the idea and has even predicted that the last person will stop reading the newspaper around April, 2040 (Meyer, 2009). Meyer began his career as a reporter and editor for various news sources and has since then gained a lot of experience in print media. He eventually was promoted to “Director of News and Circulation Research” for the newspaper Knight Ridder, a news company that specializes in newspaper and internet. In 1981, he became a professor at UNC Chapel Hill, a leading journalism school. There he researched the practices of the newspaper, including the challenges it faces. He is not the only observer of the dwindling profession. Frank A. Blethen of the Seattle Times and Les Hinton of the Wall St. Journal believe that emerging online news sources are bad for the print business.
Google News is one of the emerging news sources taking over the industry. Les Hinton called it a “vampire of news content” (Wingfield, 2013). He is referring to the fact that Google News compiles several news articles into one platform. He thinks that it is profiting from the work of other news sources. Another media source that is gaining in popularity is Craigslist, an advertising platform. Advertising was once primarily down on the advertising pages of newspapers. Blethen accused the founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark, of disrupting classified advertising (Wingfield, 2013). Online advertising revenue is expected to rise 4.6 percent more by the end of 2015 (Connor, 2015). More businesses and individuals are willing to advertise on Craigslist than on newspapers, which is affecting the financial aspect of print.
Print’s Financial Turmoil
Elliot King, a journalism professor, believes that economics is important knowledge for all journalists to have in order to use their skills efficiently (King, 2008). Advertisement platforms, such as Craigslist, and subscriptions to online sources are breaking the financial pillars of print journalism (Wingfield, 2013). Readers of newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post expect free content. Those news sources are providing the same information that online sources provide with no profit. Therefore, the competitor’s profit increases (Kissel, 2013). The New York Times lost 74 million dollars and 40 percent of its ad revenue to Craigslist (Kissel, 2013). The Guardian, another big newspaper company, fell 50 percent in revenue to online publications between 2005 and 2013 (Kissel, 2013). It may seem like a large loss, but the impact is even greater on smaller publications. Some, such as The LA Times, become less relevant. Many more end altogether such as The Baltimore Examiner, Tucson Citizen, and The Kentucky Post (Kissel, 2013). 42% of the worldwide media expenditures today go to the television industry. 24% percent goes to digital outlets. Print sources spend the least and receive the least with newspapers spending 12.8% and magazines spending 6.9% (Connor, 2015).
One huge difference in online and print sources is the speed of information availability. Online sources are able to upload information about an event immediately as it happens. Meanwhile, print sources are restricted by the time is takes to write, edit, process, and print a full newspaper. Many of the more prominent sources are diligent in their efforts to be punctual. Jon Stewart, a political writer and TV personality, vocalized his appreciation for print media, claiming there is “merit in printing news 24 hours after it occurs” (Kissel, 2013) Availability is a factor that consumers take into account when looking for a news source. Another factor is unbiased honesty. Meyer explains, “Journalism students need to know that good journalism consists of news stories that are well reported and written in a fair and balanced way” (Meyer, 2009). In addition, he says that local news will become irrelevant if the writings are not honest. Local and national newspapers need more editorial investment. Meyer explains the “influence model”. News organizations traffic social and commercial influence. Socially, they get loyal readers. Commercially, they influence those loyal viewers’ purchases using advertising. Essentially what he means is that good journalism earns more money. Good journalism consists of credibility, accuracy, readability, and editing. The model is not fully tested and it would be very difficult to test thoroughly (Meyer, 2009). A big aspect of print journalism that is being affected is creditability. Online outlets such as Buzzfeed and Twitter allow “the average Joe to become a journalist” (Kissel, 2013). Still, some believe that online giants of the industry are actually coming to the aid of print journalism.
Assistance to Print by Technology Giants
Many owners of popular online outlets have been known to actually help the print media industry. Google News, the company accused of profiting off of others’ work, financed journalism fellowships for 8 people. Craig Newman, blamed for ruining classified advertising, financed an ethics book for journalism. The Co-Founder of Facebook, a popular news source for youth, saved New Republic magazine by purchasing the company. Jefferey P. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, bought The Washington Post also to save it from financial bankruptcy. The founder of eBay started an online Hawaii news service and Steve Jobs from Apple advised newspaper how to adapt to the “tablet era” (Wingfield, 2013). Leaders of the online media movement claim it is the fault of the print newspapers for letting the tech giants do the job better. Merrill Brown, the Director of School Communication and Media at Montclair State University and former editor of MSNBC.com, defends his online colleagues from the claim that they don’t care about journalism with “They value it and are concerned for the country”(Wingfield, 2013). Craig Newmark defends himself by stating “I am waiting for evidence”. He is referring to the idea that online outlets such as his website are discrediting the whole profession of journalism. He adds that there is financial data that shows that print media agencies are losing revenue over recent years, but there is not evident proof that points fingers to online outlets as the culprit (Wingfield, 2013). Esther Wojciki is a journalism teacher at Palo Alto High School in California. She teaches the fundamental properties of the newspaper to her students. She supervises her students when they work together to create their own newspaper and has even mentored pop culture icons such as actor, James Franco. She is also the mother-in-law of Sergio Brin, the co-founder of Google. She defends Sergio and other website owners with “They are concerned for American culture” (Wingfield, 2013). She understands that journalism and journalists have a huge impact on American culture. Some denounces the claim that Americans rely too much on the internet and do not read the newspaper at all, therefore ruining the future of America.
A Modern Journalist’s Perspective
Lucero Sifuentes, like Esther Wojciki, knows what it’s like to have a journalist perspective from both print and new age platforms. She is a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill, the same school where Phillip Meyer studied the newspaper. Since then, she has written for several newspapers and worked at a TV station. She agrees that technology is one major contributor to the end of print. She thinks technology makes it “easier to ignore print” (L. Sifuentes, personal communication, November 17, 2015). She adds that newspapers are simply less convenient that online news sources. She remembers an experience in which the news was reliable, but the channel through which the information came made a difference. “One of my political science professors at UNC made us order a tangible print subscription to the New York Times as part of the class requirement. We were told to keep up with the papers all semester in order to use them in our final projects. People had piles and piles of paper and couldn’t remember what day which story was. Online, there is a search database. It’s just way too easy. At this point, I get news alerts to my phone so I don’t even have to actively look for news stories. The breaking news comes to me. It’s hard to put in effort to go get a paper when others are offering you easier alternatives” (L. Sifuentes, personal communication, November 17, 2015).
Still, she believes that in order for newspapers and magazines to stay relevant they must embrace the digital age and make websites and apps themselves. Embracing technology will allow the news companies to stay relevant to consumers and financially stable. Many journalists would agree. In a profession where the information is their business, all journalists need to know what the consumers want. She supports this by positing, “I don’t think it’s important for the physical newspaper to stay relevant, but rather for news companies to know how to use their resources to stay relevant by using recent technology.” (L. Sifuentes, personal communication, November 17, 2015) She still has faith that the newspaper industry won’t go obsolete for a while. She states, “I don’t so much think print is completely over, because I think the older generations still appreciate it, but I think it will decline with future generations until these agencies are purely online” (L. Sifuentes, personal communication, November 17, 2015).
Journalists need to be reliable and energetic to gain and keep loyal consumers. There is infinite demand for the product that journalists produce and consumers will seek out the most credible and honest sources, whether they are online or in print. Print journalism is considered by some as the kind of “unloved relative” (King, 2008). Still, scholars around the world admire the career for its long lasting importance in American culture. Print media is losing popularity and it is possible that the evolving technology is a major cause for the decline in the progression of print media. In addition, consumers of news might prefer the availability of online sources in comparison to traditional print sources. Another reason for the field’s decline could be poor financial decisions by major newspapers and magazines. Regardless of platform, journalism has influenced American and world culture in many ways. It will continue to influence the lives of citizens all over the world, changing forms throughout all time.
Connor, J. (2015). Digital Advertising Climbs, While Traditional Media in Trouble. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/24/digital-advertising-climb-tradional-media-trouble_n_6930958.html.
King, E. (2008). The Role of Journalism History, and the Academy in the Development of Core Knowledge in Journalism Education. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 63(2), 166-178.
Kissel, M. (2013). The Decline of Print Doesn’t Mean the End of Print Journalism. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/29/decline-print-media-journalism-web
Meyer, P. (2009). The vanishing newspaper: Saving journalism in the information age. Missouri: University Of Missouri.
Sifuentes, L. (2015, December 16). [Personal Interview]
Wingfield, N. (2013). Technology Industry Extends a Hand to Struggling Print Media. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/12/business/media/technology-industry-extends-a-hand-to-struggling-print-media.html?_r=0