Can print and online journalism ever exist together happily?

Is the online revolution of journalism as fast-paced as everyone thinks? Are newspapers really on the brink of dying a cold, hard, software-related death? Steen Steensen thinks not, as described in his blog post – Online journalism and the promises of new technology, part 1: The revolution that never happened (2010). I agree with him, to a certain extent…

Steensen opens with this thought:

“Who would have thought, back in the 1990s, that by 2010, online newspapers would still be mainly about publishing written text to a mass audience?  Not many.”

And while this is true, it is easy to understand why written text online is still a popular form of journalism. For one thing, a feature or news story written online is free to access. People will always want – and need – quality journalism, which tends to involve quite a bit of written text and analysis. Steensen asks why the use of multimedia, hypertext and interactivity is “so rare”. Well, one could say that online written text does not necessarily need these three things. Yes, there are usually hyperlinks hidden in an article, and more often than not, there are links to share the webpage via Twitter, Facebook etc. Why should the online version contain these things when it is not needed in print? They have different audiences, after all.

Can print and online journalism ever exist together happily?


But perhaps the reason why the three things that Steensen mentions are “so rare” is because the current journalists do not fully understand how to use them. Current journalism students, or ones who have graduated in the past three or four years, are the generation that will fully understand how to use the internet to its full potential. Twitter has been revolutionary for citizen journalists and breaking news, but only in the last two years or so (granted, Steensen only wrote his blog post in 2010). As time goes on, and as the current generation of journalism graduates filter into the newsrooms, perhaps then we will see print and online work together harmoniously.

Another interesting – and perhaps quite rare – point that Steensen makes is this:

“The Internet will not kill journalism. It will change it, but perhaps not so radically as one would expect.”

The internet has been around for 20 years or so, and although the newspaper industry is declining, it is still around and doesn’t seem to be throwing in the towel just yet. In James Curran’s (2010) ‘Technology Foretold’, he details technology predictions which were hyped up, but seemingly did not reach expectations of such revolutionary change. With Steensen, he talks more about how technology, like radio and television, can exist together because they are totally separate types of media.

Perhaps online and print journalism need to differentiate themselves before both can survive healthily. What do you think?

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