Dr. Jonathan Lillie
CM-203-01: Final Exam
From the very beginning of the Revolutionary War, newspapers served a crucial role in distributing not only the written word, but also political thought amongst American colonists. The colonists grew to value their freedom of expression in political pamphlets and newspapers and in 1791 the newly democratic state that recognized that freedom by adding the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, thereby securing every American’s right to ‘Freedom of the Press.’ From that point forward the history of newspapers in America was unlike any other newspaper market in the world, due to the fact that “[…] newspapers and magazines developed in the United States with little government control, as opposed to other places in the world where censorship and government ownership are the norm” (King, Cook, & Tropin 317). From this era forward, the newspaper business has continuously evolved with the times.
In the early 1830’s, the Industrial Revolution and technological advancements such as the first cylinder press invented by a German by the name of Frederick Koenig, and steam engines (which were used to drive printing presses) which generated the ability of newspapers to increase their circulation. Newspapers companies began to experience significant growth because new technology and the low cost of paper products allowed them to mass circulate their papers for an extremely inexpensive price. This advancement also implemented social change, “[…] as mass circulation transformed newspapers into valuable businesses with large staffs, they started to be seen less as vehicles for one person’s opinions and more as providers of information” (King, Cook, & Tropin 319). This innovative period gave birth to objective journalism. The invention of the telegraph and the Linotype machines also revolutionary. The telegraph allowed the fast and easy transfer of information to travel across great distances in small amounts of time, and the Linotype machine was able to fastidiously print entire pages of newspapers in no time at all. “The Linotype enabled newspapers to print several editions during the day” (King, Cook, and Tropin 320). The next major change in newspapers came about with the creation of newspaper chains.
William Randolph Hearst began his change in San Francisco, then expanded to New York, and continued to acquire papers across the country until he controlled “[…] 30 papers nationwide, giving him enormous influence over public opinion” (King, Cook. & Tropin 320). Through their desire to increase capital by expanding their chains, Hearst and other newspaper publishers popularized the use of media conglomerates; a tradition that still exists today. For example, “Gannett, which is best known for publishing USA Today, has 84 daily newspapers and nearly 850 magazines and non-daily publications, and operates 23 television stations in the United States” (King, Cook, and Tropin 320). The creation of newspaper conglomerates also instigated social change. Immigrant communities, Native Americans, Women’s Rights groups, and anti-Vietnam War protesters are all examples of minority groups who established their own newspapers in order to unify their community and get their opinion out into the general public. However, although newspapers continued to provide Americans with news, they began to experience a decline in readership in the late 20th Century: a trend which has carried on to today. It eventually became more expensive for the production and distribution of newspapers, and they were eventually overcome by television and other forms of visual media. American began to lose interest in newspapers due to lack of stimulation and short-attention spans. The recession of 2008 and the popularization of the Internet also led to the decline in readership of newspapers. For example, newspapers used to generate significant profits from the advertisement of ‘classifieds’ in the back of the paper; however, the Internet site “Craigslist” facilitated a faster, concise, and more accessible version of classifieds that people could obtain for FREE and instantaneously. The two forms of convergence that newspapers and journalism were affected by were technological convergence and industry convergence (Class Notes). Additionally, the convergence of the Internet with news media has allowed viewers to obtain free information and visual media from social networks such as blogs, Twitter, and YouTube.
Although newspapers have been significantly affected by convergence, they are still around today. They continue to suffer from a lack of readership, but they are now looking at ways in which they themselves can converge in order to increase their capital. One way in which they have done this is by experimenting with ‘converged newsrooms,’ hoping to do a better job at stimulating their audience. More importantly, they have begun to shift towards online journalism. Online journalism has been accessible via blogs and other free outlets (citizen-journalism online) for almost ten years now, but newspapers such as the NY Times and the Daily News have decided to move their articles onto theirs websites, requiring readers to pay a monthly subscription. These newspapers have taken notice of the power of citizen journalism and the effect it has on their business, so they modified their business models to the monthly subscriptions and began to encourage user participation/interaction. A look at the website for the Baltimore Sun is an example of the use of multimedia and user participation. They use videos like the one shown below in order to stimulate their audience, and they encourage users to discuss articles and news topics by ‘sharing’ their page with friends and family by using the Facebook ‘like’ button. Additionally, they have an entire tab labeled ‘Opinion’ where readers can discuss and interact with each other.
1) Currents in Communication: King, Cook, Tropin
2) Class Notes/PowerPoints