In “Old-Media Values in New-Media Venues” Bob Cohn, of The Atlantic, argues that old media forms and styles are being incorporated into new media platforms. Cohn describes the early days of new media as a time when anything went, it was loosely edited, and people held it to a lesser standard than old media. At first, it just didn’t matter because the web wasn’t like the real news.
Now web based media increasingly looks like old media, both in its design and in its substance. At first digital media was just text. Now it has pictures, graphics, maps, and color. In other words, it increasingly looks like a news magazine. Cohn points out that not every digital story can be a huge production, but they don’t need to be. Old media forms can be used to improve the reader’s experience of new media.
Cohn describes the way he and his colleagues tried to crank out a huge volume of articles to attract readers, but that they got fewer viewers. The lesson was that they still needed to provide the reader with quality writing and reporting.
Cohn says that as time has gone on the two forms have come closer to each other. This has been manifested within newsrooms, where old media and new media were at first segregated. Increasingly that separation is shrinking. Now, old media staff and new media “nerds” are cross training and doing stories for each other.
Much of this seems obvious, and in fact I was surprised that what Cohn is describing had not long since happened. I think I assumed that newsrooms had long since become fully integrated, or at least were largely so.
At the same time though, for digital media to acquire the prestige of old media, I assume that it will need to adhere to the same standards of quality that print is held to. Certainly many of us have in the back of our heads the notion that, as Cohn says, “it’s just the web.” So it’s not as important. It’s just…digital. In fact there’s no difference. An article published in print and an article published digitally are both journalism. The standards of presentation, quality of reporting, and objectivity.
I think that print, as such, will at some point actually be extinct. Maybe that won’t happen in our lifetimes, but who knows? It will happen at some time though. In the meantime the process of fusion and blending will continue. So it’s good that both forms have this time to interact, and it’s good that new media has moved past the early stage that Cohn describes. The critical element is that standards of quality continue to make there way into new media so that by the time print is actually gone, new media have taken on not only the forms of old media, but also the substance, standards, and objectivity of old media.
While I was reading I couldn’t help thinking that what Cohn was saying was obvious. The changes that have happened in the past ten years have been so rapid and enormous that I suppose it has sometimes overwhelmed old media pros. But, without consciously being aware of it, I felt that what he was relating seemed like it was from about five years ago.
It is a good piece and it was interesting, but I felt as though I already knew what he was saying. Cohn’s observations are on target and his conclusion is valid. Now, it’s time for the profession to move onto the next stage.
Categories: News analysis