The term “news production and technology” describes the process and the tools that are necessary for formatting and disseminating journalistic content to an audience. Communication always needs a medium – be it air, paper, or electricity – to travel from producer to recipient, and the advance of technology has had a deep impact on forms of communication. Any kind of communication that goes beyond direct, local, interpersonal oral or visual interaction depends on a means of technology as a medium. The development of modern mass media, allowing journalists to reach dispersed, large audiences, is interrelated with technological innovations such as the invention of printing and electricity. Thus, production of media content is largely dependent on and shaped by technology, which in itself can be seen as a necessary condition for journalism as a profession and its economic as well as social and political relevance.
The invention of movable type for book printing around 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg (1394?–1468) is usually seen as the advent of the age of modern mass communication – despite the fact that block printing and movable type had been used in Korea and China hundreds of years earlier. However, Gutenberg’s invention laid the basis for the mass (re-)production of media content. The “Gutenberg Revolution” – an expression coined by media historians such as Marshall McLuhan (1962) – marked the beginning of a new age. Besides flyers and pamphlets, the first periodical newspapers were established in Strasbourg and Augsburg at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Printing was taken to the level of industrialization when Koenig developed a steam-powered high-speed cylinder printing press. The London Times was the first newspaper to be printed on it in 1814. Innovations in the field of printing, such as the rotary printing press (1863) and the Linotype typesetting machine (1886), allowed for even faster production – essential for up-to-date news media. More advanced layout became possible through the embedding of pictures and color. The introduction of personal computers in the 1970s caused yet another revolution. Today, digital newsrooms use desktop publishing (DTP) and computer-to-plate (CTP) technology, which has increased speed and quality dramatically and rendered many job profiles – such as typesetter – obsolete.
The invention of the electrical telegraph in the first half of the nineteenth century and the telephone in the second half paved the way for the rise of wire services and news agencies. Today, the global news flow has shifted from telegraphy to emails and the Internet.
Wireless transmission of signals became possible by the modulation of electromagnetic waves. Guglielmo Marconi (1874 –1937) is often referred to as the “father of radio” (Kleinsteuber 2005), but many other scientists, such as Braun, Popov, and Tesla, contributed to the new monodirectional medium. From about 1920, private households were able to receive newly founded private and public radio stations, which broadcast not only news but also music.
It was only a relatively small step from radio broadcasting to television. Karl Ferdinand Braun (1850 –1918) had built the first cathode ray tube as early as 1897, but the rise of television did not set in until after the end of World War II. Terrestrial television only allowed for a limited number of channels and was broadcast in black and white until the introduction of color TV in the 1950s and 1960s. Other developments were stereo sound and videotext. In the 1980s, cable and satellite TV evolved. The transmission of signals via coaxial cable or the direct connection to a geostationary satellite dramatically increased the broadcasting volume and thus enabled the rise of private commercial channels.
Both radio and television broadcasting have long been taking place in analog mode. However, broadcasting has successively switched to digital since the 1980s for quality and capacity reasons – several digital signals can be transmitted on the frequency needed for a single analog one. Today, all types of media are produced digitally, i.e., computer based. Content can easily be interchanged. Thus, the term “Age of Digitization” not only refers to the binary codes that computers are based on, but also to the convergence of media. The best examples are online media, which include aspects of all three previous types of media.
Online media represent the fourth and most recent category of media. Its infrastructure – the Internet – evolved from the ARPANET, a network of connected computers at research institutes and universities created by the US Department of Defense in 1969. Today, the network spans the whole world and consists of academic, business, domestic, and government networks, which themselves connect many single computers, which “communicate” through the standard Internet protocol (IP). The Internet provides hardware and space for the content of the world wide web – be it text documents, images, or multimedia – including the “classical” three media forms. With the evolution of the Internet, email has become one of the central channels of worldwide communication and fuels globalization. The end of the 1990s saw a process of Internet hype, which eventually led to the so-called dot-com bubble. Nevertheless, the availability of broadband connections (as opposed to slow dial-up modems) has led to yet another stage, known as “web 2.0,” in the twenty-first century.
Research And Theory
Mass media and communication scientists have underestimated the relevance of research on media technology for decades. Especially in Europe, this field was left to the natural sciences while the social sciences focused on other factors as variables defining media content: political systems, economy, culture, etc. This perspective, known as the indeterministic view, models technology as a neutral element. The opposing deterministic view accepts technology as a decisive factor determining the shape of media content and thus the content itself. This view was supported by Canadian scholar Marshall McLuhan, who coined the expression “the medium is the message” (McLuhan 1967). Some communication scientists have tried to classify media technologies by the relation of senders and recipients, and thus describe their evolution stepwise from one-to-one communication (oral or written) to one-to-many (through printing or broadcasting) to many-to-many (the interactive world wide web) (Neverla 2005).
Current And Future Media Production
History shows that whenever new technologies become available, they are immediately implemented in the media production and dissemination process. In return, the availability of new technologies spawns new genres and forms of media. For example, the development of photography and the possibility of including photos in the printing of newspapers allowed for the rise of yellow press or tabloid media.
The production processes of today’s media are defined by the technology they use. The use of computers in particular has led to a digital revolution, which has proved to be as relevant as the first printing of books. In the modern newsroom, a journalist controls everything – the electronic gathering of information (e.g., through an online news ticker), the text processing software, the layout, and the printing. In fact, a single computer can serve as an entire newsroom. Satellite modems allow foreign correspondents to produce and broadcast with almost no time delay from the most remote spots of the globe. Obviously, today’s journalists need to know not only how to research and write stories, but also how to handle their electronic equipment.
In television, the age of digitization brought a huge increase in the number of channels. This affects media economy as well as journalists’ work: there is a huge difference between producing a full program as opposed to a niche channel, and pay TV is a relatively new economic model. Content production is affected on yet another level: modern digital cameras and camcorders are much easier to handle than their bulky predecessors and allow for a more “natural” feeling in TV content. The direct electronic transmission of the material allows broadcasting practically without time delay, both on air or online. Through digital editing, content can even be altered or generated from scratch. While this may serve a good purpose, e.g., for explaining complicated matters in animations or infographics, it creates ethical issues, which journalists and audiences have to be aware of – manipulation has always existed, but it has never been so easy.
There is no doubt that the world wide web has changed not only the media, but the world. Its success has been dependent on several technological factors. Even electronically stored content takes up space – server capacities have to be provided. This goes along with a certain connection speed, the software to run the network, technical resources in the hand of the recipient, and the knowledge to handle them. The fascination of the Internet stems from its decentralized network structure, its global reach, and its ability to adopt any known form of communication, from oral interaction (voice over IP) to content providing to text messaging to genuine news media in text, sound, and (moving) pictures. This integrative aspect leads to a convergence of formerly independent media types. Today’s journalists have to be capable of cross-media content management and promotion – a factor that alters classical job models. Apart from the combination of media, the web offers new possibilities such as interactivity. Since technological barriers for access to the Internet have become relatively low (cheap equipment, usability of software, fast bandwidths, internet cafés), user-generated content plays an increasingly important role. The idea of citizen journalism had been made popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but its potential became clear when phenomena such as blogging (web-logging) emerged. This is even more important as the web not only spans the globe but is also accessible through wireless devices such as PDAs, mobile phones, and notebooks. Defining professional journalism becomes increasingly difficult. For example, online journalism calls for a certain organization of content through hyperlinks but at the same time easily links into non-journalistic spheres such as advertising. Whether the “classical” media will eventually merge into one online medium – as debated at the beginning of the twenty-first century – will depend on the technology to come.
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