Passing The Torch?
Written by Kathy Casper
The recent blizzard that ravaged the north- east was an eye-opener for newspaper publishers in Pennsylvania. Authorities enforced a ban on traveling the roads - a ban that included newspaper delivery vehicles, as well as reporters attempting to cover the story. However, broadcast media vehicles and news gathering personnel were ex- empted from the ban.
Lt. Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, chairman of the Pennsylvania Emergency Manage- ment Council, explained in a press release that television and radio coverage was more urgent during the crisis, due to its role as the primary source of emergency information to residents of Pennsylvania.
The agency's press secretary, John Comey, elaborated further, pointing out that broadcast media's "instant report" capability was crucial to the dissemination of informa- tion, while the print media is more focused toward in-depth analysis, which takes longer. In other words, in a crisis situation, it is speed that counts - not thoroughness.
What does that mean to the newspaper industry and other print media? Has old age finally settled in? Is it time to retire to the front porch rocking chair as the "thoughtful wise-one", and "surrender gracefully the things of youth"? Has the flame of print journalism become a dying ember?
Not likely, considering the eight-fold
increase in online newspapers during 1995.
According to Steve Outing, author of
Some will be online with Web editions of selected features and articles. Others will offer Internet access in addition to unique content. Still others will establish local BBS facilities. In all cases, the newspaper industry will continue its tradition of in-depth news coverage (which "takes longer"), rejuvenated by a joyful marriage with the immediacy of cyberspace.
Now, the question becomes, will broad- cast media be able to keep up? From its inception, broadcasting has been constrained by the element of time - after all a one hour program is a one hour program. While a newspaper article can go on until the story itself says "Stop!", the same story delivered by radio or TV is at the mercy of the program director. Therefore, broadcasting has devel- oped a tradition of delivering hype and sound bites, not quality content. In the transition to Internet presentation, this differential will work in favor of print jour- nalists, since they are accustomed to editing for content, not for time frame.
Both print and broadcast media strive for interactivity with their audiences. Call in talk show programming is one of the most successful radio formats, and game shows or serial programming, such as soap operas, do the job for television. Newspapers are some- what limited - again for lack of immediacy, but "Letters To The Editor", question and answer columns (the original "FAQ's"?), coupon promotions, crossword puzzles, and reader contests have been a mainstay of just about every newspaper and magazine ever published. This will translate much more efficiently to the Internet than chat, gaming and installment serials will.
In recent editions of the Miami Herald's
Sunday Magazine, "Tropic", a novel has been
in progress entitled Naked Came The
Manatee. This week's chapter was
The print media have long been the most user-engaging of all communications devices, and I predict that the print media will be the heir apparent of the online throne. For all the glamour of glitzy visual effects and fancy audio files, information and communication will remain the heart and soul of the Internet, just as it has been for the print media.
Newspaper Resources on the Web:
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