The state of media today is much different than it was in the past, with the accessibility of news being much greater than ever before, and things continue to change as time progresses.
But, is this entirely good, entirely bad or, perhaps, is the answer much more complicated?
At one point in time, news was quite literally hot off the presses – physical newspapers were everywhere, mass produced and distributed throughout cities for everyone to pick up by hand, flip through and read every line.
Now, news can be accessed by simply picking up an iPhone and tapping on an app. People no longer need to walk to their front door to pick up the paper that the local newsboy has thrown on their lawn, and physical subscriptions to newspapers such as The New York Times are now simply sent in emails for people to scroll through.
The question lingers: will the news industry become completely digitalized? Will physical papers become a thing of the past? What does this mean for the future of news?
Joy Jenkins, assistant journalism professor at UT, offered insight on the changing news industry and the future of print media from what she has seen firsthand over the years.
Jenkins’ experience in media all started with a copy-editing position in Oklahoma. At her second paper, she worked her way up to senior editor.
Jenkins started her undergraduate career in 2000, and over the last 21 years, things have certainly changed regarding the digitalization of media.
“It’s amazing to think about how different the news industry is. … When I was an undergraduate student starting in 2000, we talked a lot about media convergence,” Jenkins said.
It seems that digital media was always looming in the background.
“A lot of us had no idea how big it was going to be; we’ve gone from a time where we got the newspaper at a certain time of day … now it’s a 24/7 media environment, and there’s an expectation,” Jenkins said.
“No matter whether you’re a newspaper or broadcaster or magazine reporter, (there’s an expectation that) you have a constant presence, and that you are covering news constantly, making content available on many, many platforms. A lot of that has just expanded in ways that I know I didn’t expect.”
In this day and age, consuming media involves more than just reading something and getting information. It is an entirely different ballgame, and individuals who have grown up in the digital age are expecting a different approach when it comes to how they consume content.
“(Now) people are primarily getting sources from socials and apps rather than news sources. We have to ensure we are where our audience is. … Media is so interactive now … the structure has changed; audience expectations have changed. It’s not just words on a page … it’s changed storytelling,” Jenkins said.
The future of the news industry is hard to predict, though, in Jenkins’ words. A digital presence is basically required for news outlets now, but at the same time, the digital version of news and media is simply not the same as holding a real, physical copy of something.
Reading a physical newspaper, magazine or book is an experience that simply cannot be accurately replicated through a digital format.
“There’s research that shows when people read a magazine at home, they spend a long time with it. … When I ask my students, ‘how do you prefer to read magazines,’ a lot of them say ‘print.’ I think it’s one of those forms that will persist, but it probably won’t reach circulation levels that it had in its heyday,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins also touched on the fact that many people still prefer reading hardback, bound books rather than reading them digitally. However, it seems that newspapers may be more likely to go fully digital before magazines or books do.
“Some national magazines mainly do online and special print issues ... I have a harder time seeing newspapers in print for a long time. … I think it will get to a point where newspapers are just going to continue to scale back that print distribution, and also because it’s expensive,” Jenkins said.
This semester, even The Daily Beacon has switched to only printing one special issue per month.
As a whole, though, Jenkins does not believe that the print distribution of news and media will completely go away.
Associate Professor of Journalism Nick Geidner also shared his experience within the news industry, stating that he started his career as a photojournalist and then worked in television news as a videographer and then newscast director.
Geidner mentioned that the rise of digital media has been a strong presence since it was introduced.
“Digital media has changed the ways individuals select, use and understand media. It has also changed the ways in which journalists find, create and distribute media,” Geidner said.
“There is literally no part of the news and media world that has been untouched by the rise of digital media.”
According to Geidner, print still has a future, albeit an altered version of how things have been.
“I don’t think print will fully disappear anytime soon, but we have seen print products shirk in many ways, such as circulation and number of print days, and that will continue,” Geidner said.
Meanwhile, although some may see the digitalization of media to be a negative transition as a whole, Geidner sees it as a double-edged sword.
“Digital media is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used in responsible ways or in terrible ways. Because of this, there are both great benefits and great pitfalls to digital media. We have access to more information now than at any point in the history of humanity, but we can also easily and widely spread misinformation, rumors and lies,” Geidner said.
The digitalization of media is a complicated concept, and this “widely spread misinformation” has shown itself time and time again as the years go on and digital media becomes more and more accessible.
Moreover, Jenkins views the interactivity and accessibility of digital media to be a significant advantage.
“I think it is good thing in a lot of ways. … I think a positive side of it is the access … I can read news from anywhere; any news in any country, it’s available. You can read an article and click 10 links to learn more,” Jenkins said.
“… You can comment directly on an article, share it, respond easily … I think it has opened up a line of communication that is challenging but productive. There are positive aspects with being able to connect with your reader.”
She added that there are both benefits and disadvantages to the news industry becoming more digitalized when it comes to journalists, as well.
“It means that journalists and news organizations have to adapt and change all the time, but it makes them better journalists and more well-rounded,” Jenkins said.
While the digitalization of media has both its benefits and disadvantages, only time will tell how the future of media will come to be.