Yes, I know, you’ve heard plenty about how we’re in the midst of a dramatic communications revolution, thanks to the birth of the Internet and new media. Journalists, advertisers, and public relations folks are attempting to figure out how to use all the new tools — blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — in order to capture an increasingly fragmented audience that is bombarded with messaging.

I recently came across this quote from a 1987 research article: “While some media professionals worry that the Internet will usurp traditional media, most agree the Internet is not yet what it needs to be…It appears unlikely that online newspapers will soon replace existing media” (Brill, p. 3, 4).

I couldn’t help but laugh.

The new medium has provided countless channels for people, who traditionally turned to newspapers or television for news, to consume information, and the resulting impact on the newspaper and broadcast industries has been seismic. Newspaper readership and television news viewership is dwindling as people increasingly turn to online resources, forcing massive layoffs of newsroom staffers and the closure of numerous media outlets. The recession has only exacerbated the situation by adding to the erosion of advertisers that began with the popularity of the World Wide Web.

Since the beginning of 2009 alone, at least half-a-dozen daily newspapers have disappeared. For instance, Colorado’s oldest newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News closed, ending a 150-year-old institution. And, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, also falling victim to readers who are now flocking to the Internet, scrapped its print version in favor of a web-only publication.

Sure, we can blame technology for “ruining journalism.” But, perhaps we should take a look at the past in order to put things into perspective. From the printing press to computers, technology has always shaped how journalists and other media professionals perform their craft as well as where the public turns for information. The Internet is not unique in that way.

Yes, some may argue that the quality of journalism has changed since the early days of the printing press. But, it has survived. And, it continues to play a critical role in our society. A role we should not lose sight of in the midst of this technological revolution. Despite all the tools at our disposal, the fundamentals of journalism must prevail. We should see new media as a new way of connecting with our audience; as a means of disseminating information in new ways. However, we shouldn’t use technology just for technologies sake. There must be a purpose behind it that we’re able to link to our goals, whether it be those of a journalist or a public relations practitioner.

Looking to the past to explain the future
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