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  • Newspapers Endangered...By the Telegraph

    With the advent of new technology, newspapers are being threatened. Many are expected to go out of business, and the rest will have to change substantially. Many observers fear that journalism will become too driven by speed, and that judgment and deliberation will be lost. Others said that news reporting would be devalued and only those providing analysis and opinion would survive. Worst of all, worries that the new technology will lead to a monopoly over information.

    A description of the dire situation faced by newspapers today as they face the Internet? No. These are the concerns expressed in the 1840s as the telegraph transformed the news business. This week’s Economist tells the story of how Samuel Morse’s invention was thought to signal the death knell for newspapers, and to thoughtful journalism.

    As it turned out, the news business was tranformed. But not in the ways many feared. With faster communications, the quality of news, and of the information Americans received, improved. Newspapers had to adapt, but survived and even prospered. And no one ever created a monopoly over information.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to Newspapers Endangered...By the Telegraph

    1. Michael Powell says:

      That is really a very interesting comparison between the telegraph and the internet. One perhaps could have a stronger argument about the effects of the internet on newspapers, however, since newspapers have actually gone bankrupt. Those newspapers have been replaced by different news sources, however, and we don't know yet whether those sources will earn the respect and prestige that many newspapers have (and others haven't). Ultimately, the demand for news has not gone away, only the means of providing it. Thanks for posting this story.

    2. Elizabeth Petrun says:

      As much as I would like to believe the newspaper industry isn't dying, the evidence is rather indisputable at this point. As subscriptions dwindle, newspapers around the country continue to shut down, lay off workers…costs are sky rocketing for papers still hanging on for dear life. As Mr. Powell notes the thirst for news will not abate, thus the industry will need to utilize new mediums. McLuhan's (1962) "the medium is the message" may provide an interesting perspective on this situation. The Internet offers modern consumers many benefits print simply cannot (timeliness, proximity, relevance, etc). Because newspapers have been traditionally supported by advertising, a loss of readership equates to less advertising, and consequently less newspaper.

      It's normal to cry wolf when new media enters society and threatens the old. However, the big six can only sustain these money drains for so long. The bottom line is that the newspaper business is still a business, and if profits follow recent patterns the newspaper will become a cultural artifact, just like the telegraph, AOL, or The Saturday Evening Post.

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