Word Count: 1323
Despite its start in the late 17th century, newspapers truly started to gain their relevancy in the late 18th century, particularly during and after the Revolutionary War. The first daily newspapers were published beginning in the 1700s mostly with local circulation and dealing with political discourse and debate. They also had the added caveat of being geared toward the mercantile elite. However, after American Independence and our constitution, in 1791, the first amendment to the constitution was ratified which guaranteed “freedom of speech and the press and the right of the people to assemble peacefully” (King 319). There were also significant technological advances that came: in 1825, the first cylinder press was used in the United States, which allowed for growth in papers and readership. Also, by 1835, steam engines were used for an even greater increase in circulation. With the advent of faster technology that allowed for not only a higher publishing rate but also an increased amount of publishing, the cost of newspaper production went way down and even allowed for newspapers to be sold for a penny thus coining the phrase “penny press”.
The most important technological advance for the newspaper was in 1830 with the employment of the telegraph. This machine allowed for more timely news coverage and increase in the area which news could cover. The newspaper was especially important regarding news coverage of the Civil War in the 1830s. It was in 1866 that the first transatlantic cable was successful in transmitting news from Europe to be published in American newspapers. In the early 20th century came the rise of professionalization in newspaper journalism. With that came the expectation of objectivity within reporting; that is, in the 1923 publication of the “Canons of Journalism” by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (founded in 1922), came this statement: “News reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind” (King 319). Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, newspaper continued to hold captive the public opinion with the creation of newspaper chains that could publish opinions that aligned with those of U.S. markets. However, many felt that newspapers weren’t publishing the opinions of the people; this opinion was by no means, a new idea as local newspapers had been circulated since the early 19th century. They held a special place for immigrants coming to American as a way to either sustain their culture or learn of what was going on back home. Also, they were extremely significant in Civil Rights issues as many black papers were in response to white newspapers and also were important to the rise of female rights.
A different kind of media was starting to come to the forefront of a means of communications, and that was the TV; the first electric one premiered in the 1939 World Fair. It wasn’t until the 1950s and the rise of cable television that newspapers really started to face issues and competition. Originally, in terms of news coverage, the television seemed to beat the newspaper in terms of timeliness. While newspapers would publish several editions at different times of the day, they seemed to not be able to compete with the rapid nature of the television. With the growth of television’s presence in American households came TV’s influence in politics when in 1952, VP Richard Nixon became the first politician to address the American public directly. In 1960, he also went on to lose the first televised presidential campaign. News coverage via television was giving the public access to more content that newspapers seemed to not be able to provide as readily. Newspapers also came with a higher cost of production. Each task was becoming more specialized; this happened around the same time as the rise in professionalization and thus the cost of hiring and then production increased. Also, as the American public became more used to the rapid nature of television, their attention span decreased, as did their interest in substantially longer texts. USA Today tried to appeal to the changing minds of the American public with bold graphics and shorter stories and was successful. Other newspapers weren’t as lucky and as a result of the increasing costs of production and the decreasing readership, they have had to cut departments and certain features from their daily editions.
It is in convergence that newspapers have really started to see their biggest decline. In terms of convergence, there has been technological convergence in which there are more computer-based platforms that allow for all media to be played in a digital format on different devices. Also, though, industrial convergence has become an issue; while previously, each industry had developed a certain organizational structure and an audience to go along with it, as time goes on, the generational differences show that the current generation is less inclined to read newspapers and has a greater tendency towards online media. Many of the news forms have started to become equal in terms of reputability and forms of communication have been criticized for not making the digital transition quickly enough. Specifically, online newspaper business models have been slow to develop which has greatly affected the readership of newspapers. Because print newspapers are not as quickly or easily accessible as online forms of journalism, people more readily access these online versions, preferring the most up-to-date news in the quickest and simplest medium possible. That is one of the main reasons that newspapers have been suffering with the digital age. The current age has a tendency towards instant gratification and the need for the latest and greatest and therefore our attention span has become greatly shortened and along with that, too, has been our patience.
We as a public have become so in tuned to the world around us and in such great desire for current events that with such internet capabilities, we don’t have to wait for news reporters to cover stories as citizen journalism is becoming more and more popular especially with the ease and accessibility of running your own blog. Not only are people able to post news but others are able to respond to what others have posted in user generated forums which can develop along side of a particular news outlet or as a group by itself, simply separate of any one source or issue. Certain newspapers have become published solely online which, economically speaking, saves a lot of money on printing costs, paper, ink, etc. However, it requires new jobs that stay up to date wit the latest technology so that the news may be properly published in a rapid manner. Not all online news sites require a paid subscription, either, which has become appealing to readers of print newspapers who are used to paying a subscription; newspapers have more so heavily come to depend on that subscriptions as a means of capital as they can rely less and less on advertisements paying for space when sites like Craigslist and eBay make for quicker and easier access.
For example, on the Baltimore Sun website, you can sign up for a digital subscription of 99 cents and under the links, the website comments that you can sign up or sign in to comment, indicating the popularity of commenting on stories. They even offer hot topics for people to respond to. The Baltimore Sun also has a link to a ‘Forum’ where there are solely user/reader generated discussion pertaining to numerous categories–news, sports, entertainment, etc. This sort of user run message board allows for people to feel like they have a say in the conversation about a particular issue, especially one they might be particularly passionate about. They might feel as though their opinion or voice is being heard. Also, in responding to other stories, users can indicate what else they might like to see published by the Baltimore Sun which would allow for the Sun to better tailor their media content so as to increase their readership/number of viewers.