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Herbert Gans blasts old media

A new type of news is here and it is radically different from what we’ve seen before.  Is that a good thing in the long run?  Does it get people involved politically?  This is something we can’t assume even though traditional media has served such a role in a democratic society, since new media doesn’t operate under the same norms.  Maybe it is too unfiltered, too raw, or maybe there’s too much of it for people to make sense of.

Herbert J. Gans is a famous sociologist whose work includes media studies, and he raises these exacts concerns [3].  However, he makes the same criticisms of traditional media, that is, he feels all forms of news media fail to stick to journalistic standards and contain enough quality information to inform voters.  Perhaps old forms of news on TV and in print can respond to this, but what about Twitter and blogger.com?  On other hand, does news have to be in all cases slow and measured like he proposes?

I don’t think Gans’ condemnation is warranted.  I agree it is good for a healthy democracy to have investigative journalists from major outlets, but new media gives something unique.  Old media relied on word of mouth; if you missed last night’s broadcast, you had to ask a friend to regurgitate everything that was said.  However now we take a tweet or article and “like” it, link it, tweet it, and text it to all our friends.  Whatever the story, it can be accessed 24/7 even if it’s a video.  It injects information on politics and news into the daily conversation. Before your friend might not mention a recent political speech in their 5-minute face-to-face conversation with you, but now this information is sent out to your phone in the same way a friendly text would be (and you can “like” it, comment on it, and pass it on).   The ease of information sharing which new media provides seems to be indispensible for a democracy.

So we stand at a crossroads.  We use both old ways to get news (TV, print) and new media.  These new types of news outlets have fundamentally changed how we access news and talk about what’s going on.  Internet and mobile phones connects people together.  Not only are we connected to our friends, but to public figures, the entire country, and the world.  It is for this reason I am optimistic about where new media can take us in the future.

Twitter is not only the future, it’s the present

So we know we exist in a world where traditional news media plays a lessened but still relevant role in our lives.  The accessibility of television still reaches the entire country, and it is easy to understand why it is the default way which we can access presidential addresses, press releases, and news on major events.  How does new media fit into this paradigm?  Does social media and the variety of online content serve the same purpose or function the same way?

This is difficult to determine, because it’s hard to find where the line is drawn between “news media” and all other forms.  A producer of news is often no longer a journalist; During elections bloggers update us from the campaign trail, and during times of crisis citizen reporters on the ground in that region serve as a critical source of information.

Even when journalists are a part of the new media outlets, they may use the same device to publish their information: for example, on Twitter.  In the sports world this is readily apparent.  The tweets of athletes and beat reporters make the headlines and are where news first breaks.  What’s unique is this news inhabits the same space as everyday social interaction.  At noon a sports writer could mention his fabulous lunch or respond informally to one of his readers, and 3 hours later he could break the news of a blockbuster trade.  Same user, same website, same page, but radically different content.

Let’s think of this another way: how do we get information from troubled parts of the world during a crisis?  In 1989 during the protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, how did we figure out what was happening on the ground?  How did we reach the protestors?  America was confined to long, panning shots of tanks and demonstrations, with History Channel specials in the years to come.  Contrast this with the Arab Spring and revolution in Egypt.  Yes, we were able to imbed some reporters under great duress, but throughout the entire event it was ordinary Egyptian citizens getting the word out through any means necessary: to each other, and to the world.  For example, this CNN blog (and several others like it) served as the primary means by which to keep abreast of the situation; the authors would collate and condense thousands of any relevant Egyptian tweets, Facebook postings, and blog entries for Americans (http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/28/clashes-erupt-in-cairo-elbaradei-told-to-stay-put-cnn-camera-confiscated/ ).  There was no delay and no montage of censored days-old footage on the evening news.  This example of new media was live, raw, and unfiltered.

What are current media?

By Joe Hronek

So what is the current state of news media?  To a certain extent we are all aware of the situation because this is the era in which we live.  It is common knowledge that twitter and blogging are popular, that print news and of 6:30pm broadcasts are in decline, and that these companies are scrambling to remain relevant.  This is supported by research: Twitter averages 1 Billion Tweets per week [1]; here we can see the decline in newspaper usage: http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/638/whoreadsnewspaper.jpg/ ; and here we can see the decline in broadcast viewership: http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/714/eveningnewsaudiencecont.png/ .

I do not think traditional media will be disappearing anytime soon.  So far newspaper outlets have been able to adapt somewhat by transporting their content online: http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/827/adrevenues.jpg/ .  Cable news has worked out its own niche in the market, but broadcast news viewers still vastly outnumber that of cable outlets by millions [2].

It is clear that we currently consume news in a hybrid form; we use both traditional and new sources.  I think what helps inform our predictions for the future is very recent trends in the developing or non-Western world.  The Arab Spring and unrest in the Middle East is a perfect example of this.  Also, the structure of our media speaks volumes of our culture, and this can better inform how we act going forward. If non-traditional news media fosters democratic participation in our society, we might want to increase its use for that end.

Media are at a crossroads

By Joe Hronek

As a political science major, I am inclined to see news media through the politics lens, but it has other functions in today’s society.  Analyzing the current state of news media tells us things about our culture and what we value as a society.  What do I mean?  Well, we can make inferences about what our society values based on why and how people consume media.  We all know that on Twitter, the most popular accounts are those of celebrities.  Likewise, the growth of online and mobile media demonstrates our desire for quick, accessible information.  This could be contrasted with the past, where the most articles are newspaper columns written by professional journalists.   One couldn’t learn of a sports team’s progress via Twitter; one could only catch up with the latest news via newspaper recaps the following day.  Despite the frequent use of Twitter and blogs as personal diaries and not a source of information, they do play an important role in the news world.

We stand at a crossroads.  There is still a living legacy of old media.  Yet at the same time we are accommodating new media: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ILQrUrEWe8&t=00m45s (30 seconds).  The critical point of the video is that even though traditional news corporations are adapting, there is vastly more content being put out online by new websites and user-generated content.

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Blogs are the present and future

By Alex Dugan

Blogs are not only the new wave of news, although we feel they are the pinnacle, there are other players in this new media frontier.  Specifically, online newspapers, whose muscle and scope are taking over leading giants in the news field.  In the future this online startups will not only be the first place young people get their news, but also older generations will start to rely on them as well, as soon as the benefits are simply too large to overlook any longer and printed material is fading away.  James Fallows, from the Atlantic Monthly, eves goes as far a saying, “digital upstarts are undermining the old media — and they may also be pointing the way to a brighter future” (2011, p, 34-49).