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The Death of the Printing Press?

by Archives January 27, 2009

WATERLOO (CUP) – New media was the focus of this year’s 71st Canadian University Press national conference. A critical mass of 285 student journalists assembled in Saskatchewan to assess the future of journalism, the demise of which was on everyone’s mind.
With newspaper sales dramatically declining, the Internet is increasingly becoming the source where many turn to for news content.
Despite the increase in Internet news consumption, it is too early to mourn print newspapers. Citing evidence from the Canadian Internet Project, which studies how Canadians use the Internet, University of Saskatoon professor Allison Muri explained people still turn to large media conglomerates because of their credibility.
“Even though everybody is interested in reading online, they are not at this point replacing printed versions, [because] they are more trusted,” Muri said.
The most visited news sites in the country are currently cbc.ca, ctv.ca and theglobeandmail.com, suggesting trusted news sources can survive by adapting to this new method of communication by producing high-quality, exclusive online material.
Though large news websites may have more readers than exclusively print publications, they are still struggling to cash on this increase. A decline in print readership coupled with Internet technological advancements – such as classified ads and online social networks – has resulted in a loss of advertisers.
Media conglomerates will likely continue to struggle until they have developed a Web-based business model, said Jon Bath, a PhD candidate with an interest in typography and the future of print.
“This is one of the wonderful things I find about what the Internet is doing – it’s forcing us to reflect back on the old media,” Bath said.
Monte Paulsen, another conference speaker and investigative editor for online news magazine The Tyee, predicts that many mid-sized, second-rate papers will likely struggle under the spread of new media, swallowed in the onslaught of free news services.
But local and reputable national papers will survive, given some adaptation.
“I think at the end of the day, this will make for better, more reliable, more balanced information,” Paulsen said. “The Web, in time, will bring together, and is beginning to bring together, the very best of TV medium, radio medium, print . . . we’re still learning to do that.”
Web-based journalism also signals a new level of interaction between readers and author. Both citizens and journalists are using networks such as Twitter, a microblog similar to Facebook status updates. Professionals are using such networks to gauge interaction with their readers, develop an online community, follow stories, and provide news updates.
The comments sections of websites also allow audiences to offer feedback on articles and blogs, provided in the past by letters to the editor.
“The big change is . . . interactivity,” professor Muri said. “In what is called Web 2.0 today, we have something that we really haven’t had before in our world of media, and that is every person that is a reader can also be a writer.”
Though the format for news is changing, Jesse Brown from CBC radio had some encouraging news: The need for professionals to present truth to readers will never cease to exist.
“There are all kinds of ways we can redefine [journalism],” Brown said. “People are not going to lose their taste in the news, and what’s happening every single day.”

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