rapid technological advances

Media Technology While technology of some type has historically been a component of media used for mass communcation, rapid technological advances in the past two decades have had a dramatic impact on the nature of mass media and how messages are delivered. The Internet in particular has ushered in an era of advancement and change in the way people experience mass communication with increased speed, clarity, and access to information.

2.1 Media Technology Mass communication is unique among various forms of human communication because it cannot occur without technology. These technologies include modern printing. Books, newspapers, and magazines are rooted in printing technology. Motion pictures are rooted in chemical technology. Sound recording, radio, and television are called electronic media for a reason. The latest media technology is binary digital signals.

2.2 Printing Technology The importance of Johannes Gutenberg in human civilization cannot be overstated. In the 1440s, Gutenberg invented movable metal type, which permitted mass production of the written word. Human communication multiplied exponentially, especially among scientists and other scholars who were pressing the bounds of human knowledge. Pivotal movements in human history began, including the Age of Reason and the Age of Science.

2.3 Chemical Technology Today all of us take for granted the visual component of mass communication today. But 150-years ago, when mass media were virtually wholly word-centric, portraitist Mathew Brady created a new kind of archival record with his photograph. Brady quickly found a public appetite for often gruesome images. Within a few years, techniques were devised to integrate photography into Gutenberg legacy printing.

2.4 Electrical Technology In the 1870s, Thomas Edison’s tinkering and refining of music technology led to entrepreneurial success and the roots of the modern music industry. About the same time, other inventors were playing with electricity—the marvel of the era. Electrical and sound technology were integrated. In the same period, other inventors were mastering the electromagnetic spectrum, giving birth to radio and later television.

2.5 Current Technologies Digital technology burst open a new mass communication age with the Internet in the late 1990s. Mass communication and mass message still fell mostly into traditional categories, like news and entertainment, but the vehicles for transmitting and exchanging messages was revolutionized. So was the quality of images through pixelation.

2.6 Technology and Mass Communication A great scholarly challenge is figuring out how mass communication works. Understanding the technology is easy. The process, though, is complex and mysterious. Scholars have scratched the surface of understanding the process with models that examine coding and decoding, gatekeeping, amplication, feedback, noise filtering, and effects. Although scholars are making progress, there remain far more questions than answers.

Chapter 3 Media Economics

As Others Played, He Built Between about 2003 and 2012, the number of journalists working for newspapers in the United States decreased by 17,000, primarily from layoffs. If newsroom staff is included, the number of newspaper-related layoffs jumps to 38,000. Many are calling what is happening to the traditional journalism workforce a “bloodbath.” Others are calling it inevitable in the era of the Internet, when consumers are far more likely to read the news on their iPad or other mobile device than a traditional newspaper left each morning at their doorstep.

The world of print media is changing. And it seems to be changing the fastest and the most profoundly in the print journalism industry—newspapers and magazines, both of which are supported by advertising dollars and subscriptions. In 2013 alone, advertising revenue in the newspaper industry decreased by 2.6 percent. This represents over 1 billion in lost funds, or more accurately, displaced funds because it is estimated that those advertising dollars went somewhere, most likely to the Internet.

Scott Bowles has journalism in his blood. As the son of award-winning veteran journalist Billy Bowles of The Detroit Free Press, Scott grew up with an appreciation

for and love of traditional journalism. Scott credits his father as the main reason he became a reporter, first for the Detroit News, then the Washington Post, and most recently, USA Today where he worked as a staff reporter and film critic for 17 years.

Billy Bowles was old stock—the type of reporter who didn’t let his own opinions or his personal biases influence his work. Whether covering the Vietnam War or newsworthy stories closer to home, Billy Bowles was known for his direct questions and no nonsense style. Scott Bowles, a veteran reporter in his own right and a graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in Russian history, shared with the Detroit Free Press how his father was his journalism school. “I watched him write and gained a love of it.”

Scott’s career as a print journalist ended abruptly a few days after attending his father’s funeral in September 2014 when he learned he was one of 70 USA Today journalists laid off in response to declining print advertising revenues.

USA Today, a Gannett newspaper, reported that the decision to trim its staff was in response to changing market conditions, which included the continued reduction in advertising revenue (5.7% from the prior year). The realignment was designed to assist Gannett with the ongoing reinvestment in its “digital transformation.”

USA Today was one of many print newspapers across the country to drastically reduce its workforce, much of which included many well-respected journalists, photojournalists, and editors. In fact, many report that the cuts began with the most seasoned reporters, likely because they had the highest salaries.

Scott Bowles shared his thoughts with the Harvard Political Review on learning of his fate on the heels of his father’s funeral: “Its just the cold climate journalism has become. It’s the grim reality of the business.” Scott’s mother may have gotten the last word when she canceled her subscription to USA Today. “May I ask why you’re canceling?” the USA Today customer service rep asked. “Sure. You laid off my son today.”

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