One of the assignments I have as a Journalism 200 student is to watch the documentary Page One: The New York Times Story. As someone who may find herself working at a newsroom like the Times, I found the documentary very interesting and thought provoking. The New York Times, like other newspapers, are finding themselves in a serious predicament. The news is rapidly changing and if the big news businesses don’t find some way to adapt, they face the possibility of going under.
All of the big issues that the documentary covers have something to do with change and how to adapt to it. It didn’t just cover the issues facing the New York Times. It covered the big issues facing all types of media. Even though the issues affected different types of media, such as TV, they all showed how quickly things were changing because of new technology and how the media companies were struggling to adapt and many print media places have had to figure out how to make do with less or go bankrupt.
One issue that the New York Times has had to deal with is the rise of citizen journalism and YouTube. The publication of the Afgahn War Logs from WikiLeaks shows how much things have changed. Before the Internet, in 1971, The Times brought the Pentagon Papers to national attention. They showed that the White House had done more in Vietnam than what they were telling the media. Back then, the New York Times controlled how much of he leaked details of the documents to show and what was right to tell the public. Having that issue alongside the WikiLeaks issue of today really drove the change home for me. It showed that while the Times is still telling the story, they don’t entirely control what gets out when anymore. Citizen journalists are putting the information out there. The media is responding to what is put out. In some ways, this is a good thing. It’s cheaper to have citizens recording things on their phones than to send journalists over to a location. However, the newspaper loses control. The people doing citizen journalism aren’t employed by the newspaper company. They will record whatever they think is most interesting or important and upload that for the world to see. And they don’t have the same idea of what’s fit to publish or objectivity as journalists do.
Just as with the invention of the radio and TV, there are whispers about whether print media will cease to exist. I don’t think that it will. Print media has adapted itself to the inventions of two major new technologies and managed to stay afloat. The challenges facing newspapers today are enormous, but they have already shown that they can adapt to compete with new technologies. It’s already happening. Many newspapers have decided to offer their paper online with a paid subscription in order to cope with the loss of advertising revenue. This shows that news can and will adapt to deal with new technologies. It is up to the journalists of today to decide how that adaptation will look like.