Theoretical Framework for Term Project

Term Project: How Media Evolution Affects News Reporting

Technological change in communication profoundly affects how news is delivered. From print to digital, media evolution has facilitated an exponential growth in news patterns and freedom of our choice. Media, being not mere a carrier of information, also exerts a subtle influence on the activities and values of audience. Most importantly, the advent of new media has redefined the role of “journalists”. The project provides an overview of media evolution: from print, broadcast, to digital, and discuss how each media technology reshape news reporting and influence the general public.

Three most important developments in my timeline:

Mid-19th to 1990s

The invention of paper and printing facilitated the disruptive innovation in media history. The transmission of information went massive and became independent of geography. This was the point where journalism bred itself yet still in the style of storytelling.

The adoption of telegraph in journalism encouraged the booming of news agencies. The high cost of telegram motivated the shorter style of news reporting and its signal instability forced reporters to put core message on the top of every piece and decrease importance of information in subsequent paragraphs. We called this type of news reporting “inverted pyramid”, which was defined as a symbol of ripeness of journalism.

Broadcast media introduced visual and sound elements into news reporting, which accomplished diverse forms of journalism. Visual-audio technology enabled event recurrence and characterized media with the capability of conveying underlying messages over pure information data.

The popularization of broadcast media soon made its domination in media market and generated deep influence on the public. Over-exposure to mass media cultivated similar outlook of world, life, value and moral criteria among the public.  Big Media became the good player of agenda setting, or even “watch dog” in countries that have control on news content. The homogeneity process reinforced the “mainstream” and eliminated the dissent.  As passive receivers, audience gradually lose their initiative in expressing opinions, while on the other hand, the wild spread of information drove their need in variety and freedom of expression. The dilemma created tension between news producers and receivers, waiting for a trigger to rebuild their relationship.

Mid-1990s to 2009

The rise of Internet provided the trigger. The rise with the internet boom of the mid-1990s reconstructed the media market. The move to an online format exacerbated trends in traditional media. Facing a group of active audience, pure propaganda or any content that doesn’t cater their taste would be selectively eliminated. Old media’s made haste to build their online presence but meanwhile they’ve struggled to suppress the new media from threatening their leading status. New media’s concentrated on competing for emerging market. But the common goal for old and new media is to making up news reporting with network attributes: faster, shorter, entertaining, interactive, and easier to share.

At the same time, as the significant spin-off of new media, BBS, forum, and blog open the channel for general public; everyone has been equipped to be a creator and distributor.  Professional journalists are no longer the absolute transmitters, Big Media lost its power to lead or filter news reporting. Journalism is seen as more of a technically aided conversation, rather than a top-down monologue. However, when people are welcoming the benefit brought by new media, they are also facing the severe challenge: the credibility of participatory journalism.

2009 to future

Extended from Blogging, we’ve witnessed the endless emergence of “We-media” (or “Self-media, To be double checked), which refers to those more personal, grassroots, networking-based media such as Twitter, Facebook, Microblog, Podcasting, GroupMessage. As our social network expands, the effect of “We-media” reaches its geometric growth. They’ve become the great source of news reporting, and feedback from these media also dramatically affects journalism. Cases found within global scope (news of Bin Laden’s death, Yao Jiaxin’s trial) can illustrate the positive and negative power of “We-media”.

Which course theories best explain what has happened/might happen?

For the first development, I’ll use Christensen’s “disruptive innovation” and Winston’s “supervening social necessity” to explain why telegraph accomplished the birth of modern journalism and how TV and radio broadcasting had dominated the media market.

For the second development, I also find that Christensen’s “disruptive innovation” and Winston’s “supervening social necessity” could best explain why Internet’s replaced TV or radio as “mainstream” media. I’ll also adopt Winston’s “law of suppression of radical potential” to analyze old media’s over new media.

For the last development, I’ll use Christensen’s “sustaining innovation” to define the adoption of increasing forms of “We-media”. And the theory of “network effects” can perfectly imply that how social networking tools will potentially reshape news reporting.

How has your timeline (past/present/future) changed?

My timeline’s slightly changed with the second and last part. In the proposal, I didn’t mark off “we-media”, but now I assume they’ve become the most popular tools for citizen journalists and are strong enough to retroact to professional news reporting. Therefore, I choose to end the second part by 2009 and define the third part from 2009 to the time towards, because I think the climax of “We-media” is yet to come.

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2 Responses to Theoretical Framework for Term Project

  1. Nicely done, Ting!

  2. Pingback: Project Methodologies « COM546 : Evolutions

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