Technological Advancements threaten the Future of Newspapers (2)

by Jumoke Giwa


The issue of accessibility is a primary concern. If most of the world’s population can’t access hardcopy newspapers (arguably inexpensive) because they are illiterate or impoverished, how will they access digital and online services? Varian (2005) estimates that over 90% of information currently produced is created in a digital format, and there’s a possibility this percentage will increase substantially in the future. Much existing content currently available only in physical formats will soon be digitized.


Localized identity and community may suffer with new media. Skilled reporters are absent in most developed countries’ local communities. The majority of the news available online through blogging services and participatory journalism is gathered by neophytes whose long-term interest may be self-serving. Bugeja (2005) advises that “advances in news technology are meant to keep reporters indoors, enhancing productivity often at the expense of authenticity” (p.31).

Williams (2003) exposes the biggest obstacle of new media to our communities. “The spread of global media as well as their increasing centrality in most people’s lives is seen as a problem for local communities… The debate about the impact of global media revolves around the question of identity – cultural, national and individual. Everybody needs a sense of who they are, a sense of belonging… The global media pose a threat to the nation, promising to erode those imaginary boundaries that distinguish one group of people from another” (pp.214-215). News consumers’ interest in new media opens them to the risk of loss of local community identity through exposure to dominant cultures.

Objectivity and Reliability

A prevailing and binding tenet of journalism is the reflection of objectivity in news reports. Publications relying on information gathered through blogging or participatory journalism risk a lack of objectivity. These publications may expose their readers to unconfirmed reports, unverified claims, and amateur writers reporting fabrications. One can argue that this happens with trained professionals too; and the media has had its fair share of scandals resulting from this, but it is apt to note that the culprits can be made accountable because they are in mainstream media and can be identified. It is difficult to identify someone who files a report on a blog, in a cybercafé, under a pseudonym, with no link to the personality. Though Carter reminds us that “the public is not an outsider, the public is the point of the enterprise.” (as cited in Bugeja, 2005, p.31), it is still necessary to verify the information reported by bloggers and citizen journalists before posting such information on credible newspaper websites. McGuire supports Carter, asking editors to focus on readers rather than on profits, and calling the corporate status quo ‘an ethics crisis’ (Bugeja, p.31).

It is important to note however that values of great journalism can exist side by side with the profit demands of the marketplace, but what has become the norm is the “…trend in American journalism to repackage and present information, rather than gather it” (Bugeja, 2005, p.31).

Control of internet

The issue of the control of the internet recently took world centre stage at a United Nations (U.N.) summit, but the outcome of the debate didn’t alleviate industry watchers’ concern. Delegates to the 2005 U. N. world summit on information society were advised that the United States of America will retain control over the internet. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a U.S-based non-profit organization answerable to the U.S. Commerce Department, is in charge of the computer systems that control internet addressing and information traffic (Edwards, 2005). Negotiators at the summit agreed to set up a forum to explore ways to narrow the technology gap between rich and poor countries but that forum will have no power to regulate the internet or wrest control of the domain-name system from the United States (Sullivan and Wendlandt, 2005).


Could Hipp have been accurate when he said “digital revenue is serious business… online business is a growth business, while newspapers are not” (as cited in “Internet holds future”, 2005)? Could that statement be a reflection of the drive that lifted the printed word off tablets and stones (which were reserved for elites in the 15th century) and placed it on newsprints (which became widely accepted and made information more widely available)?

Online and digital news dissemination is truly catching on and replacing hardcopy newspapers. If a disaster should befall the technological field, such as a pull of ICANN’s plug or another dotcom bust, the history of generations of people and nations may be completely lost. McLuhan and Fiore’s claim that electronic communications are producing an environment in which people are ‘involved with, and responsible for, each other’ (as cited in Williams, 2003, p.214) is arguable. This claim could be true but people may not necessarily want to be that involved with or responsible for each other. They could however be forced to change as new media is thrust on their computer screens or other digital devices.


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Brady, J. (2005, October/November). High velocity journalism. Quill, 93, 64-67.

Bugeja, M. (2005, October/November). Journalism’s new bottom line, Quill, 93, 31-33.

Edwards, S. (2005, November 17). Canada sways UN delegates to let U.S. keep control of Web. National Post, p. A19.

Internet holds only future for newspapers, experts warn. (2005, November 10). Yahoo News. Retrieved on November 10, 2005, from

Marshall, J. (2005, October/November). Citizen journalism continues to surge. Quill, 93, 14-16.

Media Asia, Marketer demands: Expecting magazine-style executions in a daily format. (2005, September 23). Media Asia, 11.

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Sullivan, A., & Wendlandt, A. (2005, November 17). U.S. keeps domain-name system under its wing. National Post, p. FP8.

Varian, H. (2005, October). Universal access to information. Communications of the ACM, 48, 65-66.

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