Week 6

Standage writes this week about the telegraph, a revolutionary technology that transformed the flow of information in its era. It linked two continents and was forecasted to create a world where everyone would be connected. The flow of information was faster and more efficient, allowing for an entirely new media environment. Standage describes how professional journalists would race to get the newest stories to print in order to best their competitors in the early 19th Century. The change that resulted from the telegraph reminded me of Shirky’s argument on professionalism being threatened by amateurization due to new media.

Shirky posits that traditional journalism will be threatened to stay in business because the institution will no longer need to be present to absorb the organizational costs that a professional institution handles. Standage points out that there was a growing public fear back in the mid-19th Century that the telegraph would bring an end to the business of journalism as well. For a similar reason, information became more readily available to the public using means not exclusive to the traditional media that put the journalists at the time on an “equal playing field”. They believed that because journalists were not able to compete for the first publication of an event, the newspapers would go out of business. This creates a parallel in predictions from then to the current situation: the predicted demise of traditional journalism institutions due to the opening of access to information because of a new technology.

This goes to show that social implications of newer technologies are not easily forecasted and that the effects of a new source of information into the media environment are not black-and-white. Standage makes a clear statement that summarizes this miscalculation at the end of his 6th chapter. “Better communication does not necessarily lead to a wider understanding of other points of view; the potential of new technologies to change things for the better is invariably overstated, while the ways in which they will make things worse are usually unforeseen.” The effects of social media are still unknown and could possibly be overstated as a revolution to overthrowing the current informational regime.

Do you think that the projected effects of social media on traditional journalism are correct? Do you think that journalism institutions will see their end soon or just go through drastic changes to adjust to the new environment?

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2 Responses to Week 6

  1. Mickenzie says:

    I find your question very intriguing and relevant to our current moment in history. However, I am tempted to see that such fears once existed in the minds of individuals and rise of the telegraph. Many industry elites and those in the newspaper industry feared that the telegraph would eliminate newspapers. Such fears are new. I personally suspect a change of production. The vast majority of “other news sources” get their information from newspapers and real journalists. Our society needs journalism, and the only way that traditional journalism will cease to exist is when they are unwilling to reinvent themselves and the means by which they report. The internet may be the fail of the traditional newspaper, but it will not be the fail of journalists.

  2. christinab3 says:

    I think social media will definitely have great consequences for traditional journalism. While the public may still find a need to receive news from a centralized location or institution, social media makes news much more accessible, convenient, and instantaneous. If journalism institutions do not find a way to incorporate new media (like Twitter, Facebook, etc) into their business strategy they may find themselves extinct. Luckily, however, I have noticed the inclusion of these types of social media in some of these media sources already. For example, Times Magazine constantly updates using a Twitter account and the Washington Post has a Facebook app that allows users to read an article and it shows their friends what they’ve been reading. I think this is an excellent strategy since it seems to be using the same tactics that many advertisers use. Instead of showing what your friends “like”, the app shows users what people in their community are reading and know about. This provides an interest and incentive to read the article as well.

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