Outline and evaluate the impact of new technologies on media organisations and the working lives of media professionals?
In this essay I will be discussing new technologies and the impact it has on the ever growing industry that is the media, but in particular I will be looking at how new technologies have had an impact on journalism. Technology has not only changed the way our media is produced, but it has also changed how we receive, believe, read, contribute and discuss the news we are reading. Media tycoons have found themselves surrounded by millions of much smaller, yet potentially just as loud, media voices which are appearing more and more every day in the form of blogs on the Net. The introduction of new technologies and the change in journalism through the ages has had both positive and negative impacts.
New technologies include, but are not limited to, the internet, computers in all forms (laptop, desktop, tablet etc), multimedia platforms, digital television, and word processing and similar such programmes. These have all, in one way or another, had an impact, be it positive or negative, on the media industry and in particular journalism.
One of the biggest changes due to the introduction of new media is the rise in the number of citizen journalists. No longer is it only the large, rich and powerful organisations which tell the news to the public, the public can now also contribute with articles, blogs and opinions on an array of different topics and current events which would often be covered in the mainstream media, such as newspapers. The simplicity but effectiveness of creating a blog has lead to a large number of smaller web based communities being formed online, where people can decide what they wish to read about, when they want to read it and how they want to read it. The Net has created a platform which creates democracy on a large scale, although it is well known that the media is censored in many countries, particularly those which are communist.
The positive impact the increase in citizen journalists created by the net has had are very obvious. The net provides a platform for any aspiring journalist, regardless of colour, creed, upbringing or age, to write their own stories and opinions, with the opportunity of broadcasting them to millions. Through the net citizen journalists have became famous and in some cases full time journalists.
A blog set up by Mario Armando Lavandeira, or better known as Perez Hilton shot the then 23 year old to global fame due to his blogs unprecedented attention. Perez Hilton’s blog was set up in 2001 originally called pagesixsixsix.com but later renamed Perezhilton.com. It was a celebrity news and gossip blog, which covered various aspects of celebrities lives, including images of celebrities from news sources, often with some sort of doodle or deframation, The attention however can show why new technologies can have a negative impact when providing the average person, with no training in journalism or media of any kind.
The attention to Perez Hilton’s blog inevitably meant that celebrities also were aware of the blog and its content. Perez Hilton was writing blog posts about celebrities who he thought were gay. The feature on the blog showed exactly how putting an amateur into the position where he can vouch to millions is a potentially dangerous thing to do. The feature on the blog received wide criticism, from celebrities, the media, the public and gay rights activists. Several of the celebrities did eventually reveal they were indeed gay, however the damage had been done and it begs that question that if this was a major newspaper, such as the now defunct News of The World there may well have been a penalty to pay.
Whilst I do believe that the net is a fantastic platform and one which every aspiring journalist should embrace and take full advantage of, I also believe that with that freedom comes a lot of responsibility. Too often the public can become too opinionated, which can be very irresponsible when writing a sensitive piece. Very few citizen journalists will actually have the experience or education to know the wrongs and writes of both news reporting and opinion pieces. If due care and attention is not paid when writing a piece for a blog, regardless of how popular that blog may or may not be, then people will start to become critical of this type of journalism. Andrew Keen stated that the net was a place of “cacophony and self opinion,” (Keen; 2007) which it most certainly can be, but not in all cases.
Andrew Keen also argued from a professionals point of view. He stated that we are all so busy self broadcasting that we forget there are professionals out there who can do it for us. It’s a very valid point and would certainly have to be considered as one of the negative aspects to citizen journalism online. In a lot of cases journalists are now having the adapt to a whole new style of journalism. This is because of the competition in the media in this day and age. With the rise in various styles, journalists must tweak their style to fit in with something the public want to read. Another sucker punch for professional journalists, but also for the newspaper industry in general, including those aspiring journalists, with the availability of so much free news, the sales of newspapers are dropping year on year. Interactive applications and websites mean that the news can be accessed at almost any time, anywhere and for free.
Hugo De Burgh argues differently than Keen, he believes that the new technologies should be embraced to their full extent.”While this may be a tall order, I hope at the very least the Internet and computer technology can continue to aid journalists and provide them with a degree of autonomy from the economic, political and professional constraints of the late twentieth century journalism.” (Burgh; 2008) I agree that we have been provided with a platform which past generations can only dream of. We can easily talk about how the internet and the rise of free news content is killing off newspapers and content the media charge for, however the benefits of technology, such as interactive websites, means that news groups can generate income from advertising. This is where the economic benefits of new technologies come in.
Most newspapers have websites which are free to access to the public. The exception to this is The Times, which charge for access to their website (at the cost of the paper). The introduction of websites for newspapers seen an array of different advertisements appearing in every visible space on websites, particularly those owned by tabloid papers such as The Sun. Video content is also often protected by an advertisement which the user must watch before going onto view the content. These advertisements generate thousands of pounds. The net has also allowed for the introduction of competitions, such as fantasy football competitions which often charge the user to enter and generate healthy profits for both the organisation running the competition and the competitions outright winner.
As would be expected, new technologies could also have created a lot of cost and complications for the media industry. When something as advanced as some of the software now available to those who work in the media industry is first brought out onto the market and adopted by a business, regardless of size, it takes both time and money to train employees to a suitable standard to use that software.
This could have caused many complications as some people may have found the new technology difficult to get used to. This shows that the introduction of some new technology would certainly have caused journalists to change their every day working lives and adapt to the changes as they came. Technology can also be expensive as it is continuously updating. This is why some media companies will lease their equipment, rather than purchase it and have it as an asset. This way the company can update their technology as they please at a cheaper cost than continuously buying new systems.
Another positive impact new technologies have had on the media industry is the interactive side of technology. Interactivity means that users can interact with the content, rather than just see, hear or read about it. This encourages a whole different type of contribution from the public. Now, thanks to websites, apps and other, similar products, users can comment, leave feedback or submit their own content whilst browsing news and media websites. One of the finest examples of this and how it worked positively is the time of the 7/7 bombings in London.
Topics such as war reporting and terrorist attacks are always sensitive topics to cover, they are topics which must be approached with caution. The 7/7 bombings was an event on British turf and therefore the British media had to be careful to report the story in the correct manner. The way in which the BBC did this simply backs up my claim that new technologies have had a positive impact on the media.
The BBC encouraged the public to send in their own user generated images and video clips, which they would then upload onto the website. Many people did and in fact the BBC website that day was filled with amateur photos and videos, of those people who were there. The public were provided with video instruction on the BBC website of how to send their content, some were able to upload online, others via email. “When major events occur, the public can offer us as much new information as we are able to broadcast to them. From now on, news coverage is a partnership.” (Sambrook; 2009)
It is clear to see that the media has changed dramatically since the introduction of new technologies. Personally, as an aspiring journalist and someone who has very much grew up and have been learning the trade using new technologies, I can see all of the positives yet also understand the negatives. I cannot, however, fathom how the introduction of new technologies into the media industry could be seen overall as a negative impact. I have recognised the stumbling blocks which come with new technologies, although these are easily dealt with and the positives will be seen once the stumbling blocks are removed. I do sometimes question about whether people think about what they’re going to write and what impact it is going to have if it is seen by a large enough audience, which is always possible when the net is involved.
With the introduction of social media, such as Twitter, the public are becoming more and more opinionated, but this is something we have to look beyond. I do believe that journalism in the modern era can be just as good as older generations of journalists. New technologies simply mean democracy, they mean everyone has a platform to try and achieve their goals and have their say, new technologies also create opportunities which were more than likely beyond the wildest dreams of any journalist in the early to mid twentieth century. The term “New technologies” is one which will be used for as long as man exists. Technology is forever developing and further new technologies will no doubt make their way into the media soon and hopefully benefits the industry as much as the current forms of new technologies do.
Keen, Andrew. The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture. New York: Doubleday/Currency, 2007.
Burgh, Hugo De, and Paul Bradshaw. Investigative Journalism. London: Routledge, 2008..
Sambrook, Richard. “Citizen Journalism and the BBC.” Nieman Reports. 2009. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. <http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reportsitem.aspx?id=100542>.