Journalistic Background: Mr. Paul Jones graduated from UCSB in 2007. Since the summer before his senior year at college, he has been employed at two small town Marin County newspapers — first as an intern and then as an associate at the Novato Advance, and then in charge of the editorial content at the San Rafael News Pointer. Nominally, he was the business and financial reporter, but also confesses that his positions required him to be a journalistic jack-of-all-trades. As Jones proclaimed, “when you are a member of a seven person editorial staff, you do it all.”
The Effects of the Digital Age on the News Corporation: Jones distills the impact of the digital age on journalism into two main effects: 1. quick access to information for journalists and organizations, and 2. the elimination of jobs that were once deemed vital to journalism.
The first is a wonderful boom to the journalist and to the news organization: “if you know where to look, getting public records online makes the process of searching for information so much easer,” said Jones. Many local government meetings and addresses across the nation are increasingly being captured and stored online, so looking up a quote’s exact wording also becomes less of a hassle. Critics may call these advancements petty conveniences, but also bolster accuracy for marginal effort on the part of the journalist.
Yet the digital age also means that jobs are cut. A photography team for a small newspaper doesn’t necessarily need to exist. A small newspaper is also often on a small budget, says Jones, and the fact that there is no photo to develop, and no expensive chemicals to purchase for non-digital photograph development means that photography becomes a much technically simpler enterprise. Indeed, the ubiquity of digital cameras means that photojournalists may get wiped from smaller newspapers’ staff. Publications that have abandoned print journalism all together and are transforming into an exclusively online presence means that printing presses across the nation are losing business.
The History and Future of Journalism: “Larger news organizations are lumbering dinosaurs,” said Jones. “The larger the newspaper the less prepared they are for the digital age.” Before the dawn of TV or the Internet, Jones reminded, newspapers were a booming business. How did they get rich? The simple answer was a monopoly on print advertising. There was simply no other medium that reached so many eyeballs every morning in America, and this industrial monopoly lead to an oligarchy of rich newspapers. Jones said, “It is like if you, right now, were offered $3 million. You would live life on easy street. So did these corporations.” What resulted was a competition to get good news out there, but there was no real competition on business terms.
When the Internet destroyed this monopoly, these enormous corporations had deep ties with the press, the paper industry. They had a lot of human capital invested. Most importantly, in comparison to something like the Internet, they were tremendously inefficient and unable to change. The destruction of such a monopoly lead Jones to predict that newspapers are on their way out. “Small town papers may go on longer,” said Jones. “But the large city printing press is dead.”
What does this all mean for the future of journalism? According to Jones, it means a more diverse market that supports risky endeavors like citizen journalism, new advertising models, and a bigger readership. Yet with the experimentation, Jones is firmly convinced that the fundamentals remain the same: news will come in short bursts (it has since the era of the town crier), and in-depth quality reporting will be difficult, valuable, and rare. Maybe the revolution won’t change much at all.