Journalism Then and Now

Print journalism has been a source for current events, information, and political news for centuries. In the last 20 to 30 years, though, this field has experienced remarkable changes in content and format with the advent of the internet and digital technology, causing uncertainty about the role of traditional journalism in a modern world. This section aims to provide a contrast between the form, function and resources used by media in the past (i.e. mid 1900s) and in the modern era. This comparison will especially focus on how the news industry has been affected thus far by transitions to new formats such as television, radio, and most importantly digital media.

A Brief History of Journalism

This site, from the journalism school at the University of Kansas, provides some excellent background on major names, themes and trends in journalism throughout the 1900s. For brevity’s sake, rather than summarize every decade of journalistic progress throughout the century this examination will compare the news industries during two specific points: the 1940s and today. The 1940s were chosen specifically because this decade saw the end of one era, radio, and the beginning of another, televised news, a direct parallel to what is currently happening with newspaper and online journalism. Both times were and are periods of great upheaval in the industry, and by contrasting the two eras one can see how dramatically the landscape of news has changed in so little time.

Then: Journalism in the 1940s


The 1940s was a time of great change in the field of journalism. It was the last decade in which radio was the dominant medium for news reporting and dissemination; programs such as CBS created a standard news format that later became useful with the advent of television, and reporting during WWII was aided by live radio broadcasts based in Europe. Radio provided the fastest and most up-to-date coverage yet, as live broadcasts often featured on-air updates as stories developed. For instance, when President Roosevelt died in 1945 the news broke that very day via interrupted radio broadcasts, a revolution to a country used to learning yesterday’s news today. The original radio broadcast of this message can be found here. However, during this time television, which had first made its public debut in the 1930s, was steadily gaining in popularity, and in the late 1940s after the end of the war additional revenue helped catapult this medium to replace radio as the dominant medium.

Famous Faces:

Edward R. Murrow — This CBS vice president ad director of public affairs became famous for his gripping, highly descriptive wartime broadcasts from Europe. To many Americans, Murrow became the voice of the war, using long-distance broadcast equipment to transmit authentic battle information and audio, creating a highly immersive news experience. Murrow also later led the way for televised news with programs such as “See it Now” and “Person to Person,” and thus became a success story in a time when many journalists were struggling to come to terms with this new medium.

New/Significant Technologies:

  • Radio
  • Television
  • Better “wire” coverage by organizations such as the Associated Press

How Technology Affected the Path of  Journalism:

  1. Radio and television allowed for relatively quick story updates compared to the slow turnover of newspapers.
  2. These two technologies first created the idea of a multimedia, immersive storytelling experience in journalism, as seen in the ambient audio captured in war broadcasts and the elementary video used for televised news.
  3. Long-distance broadcasting furthered the globalization of media coverage.


Now: Journalism in the Digital Age


Journalism today is, in a word, dynamic. Newspaper readership has gone down significantly as online applications of journalism have become the norm. Televised journalism, while still relevant, is now spliced into videos and linked to web sites such as Youtube, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter and personal blogs. Many news companies now actively attempt to integrate multimedia components such as video, links or photos into almost every story. In addition to these new methods of media consumption, the ability to generate and self-publish news is now in the hands of anyone with an internet connection and a few basic tools, creating a new power dynamic between traditional news sources and citizen journalists. Radio news still lives on through programs such as NPR, but now focuses less on breaking news and more on analysis and human interest content.

Famous Faces: 

You – The most influential contributor to the changing field of journalism today is, perhaps unsurprisingly, its audience. Citizen journalism has become a crucial part of many existing news networks, and independent news sites have been launched to accommodate this new wave of tech-savvy, news-hungry citizens. Citizen journalism has paved the way for hyper-local coverage, such as that featured in or other local news sites. Most importantly of all, though, thanks to technological innovations and the rise of participatory journalism the relationship between a news source and its audience has changed from a lecture to a conversation. Fact-checking blogs and independent news criticism sites now create a check against the authority of mainstream media, while individual citizen journalists offer an alternative. This trend in audience participation shows no sign of stopping, and will most likely continue to shape the future of journalism.

New/Significant Technologies:

  • Cheap, highly advanced digital cameras and camcorders
  • The internet
  • Free personal blogging and publishing programs
  • Cell phone technology
  • Email
  • Smartphones
  • Global internet connectivity through wi-fi and satellite networks

How Technology is Shaping the Future:

  1. Cheaper, more complex electronics have given ordinary citizens tools that level the playing field between them and mainstream media.
  2. Online news sites, while still experimenting with business models, have developed and are rapidly taking the place of newspaper and magazine services.
  3. Globalization has allowed for up-to-the-minute news updates on anything anywhere.
  4. The new tools afforded modern journalists have produced a multimedia storytelling experience richer than anything imaginable in the past which will certainly shape where the future will lead for this industry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s