Kimberly Sweetman–The Corsair
From the days of the town crier to development of modern printing presses, journalism has always been in some stage of transformation. Today, as the Internet helps spread news and information quicker and easier than many believed possible, what is the future of newspapers and other printed media? That is the question many journalists are trying to answer.
Nearly 67 percent of U.S. homes have an Internet connection, according to USAToday.com. And that doesn’t take into account the people who use Internet at restaurants, schools and businesses. That competition has had a profound effect on newspapers’ advertising revenue and circulation. Will newspapers be able to change to attract future generations of readers?
Mike Suchcicki, multimedia editor for the Pensacola News Journal, said the local daily newspaper began offering news on the Web in 1996, but a real focus on the benefits of online was not made until Sept. 16, 2004.
“It wasn’t until (Hurricane) Ivan struck in 2004 that the full power of the Web site as a news-delivering medium was realized,” he said. “When Ivan struck, all of a sudden we had millions of eyes from around the world on our Web site. We realized that the Web site needed to be more than just a side entity.”
With the advent of online news, journalists are using new forms of technology to get news to readers.
“We are looking at a lot more social media-type things,” said Chris Drain, advisor for PJC’s The Corsair. “We have a Twitter account online and are putting a lot of information on that. As we grow as a Corsair staff, we will be able to use Twitter for a lot more. We may even get people that tweet back to us with news items through Twitter.
“We are also doing Pulse, and that is just a wonderful five-minute Webcast about what’s happening on campus. We have Livestream; we also have Cover it Live, a live blogging we have been using at sporting events. We were actually the first ones to use it at the state baseball tournament three years ago and now everyone is using it. We’ve got a lot of tools on the site, and it is just a matter of having the manpower to use them,” Drain said.
The Corsair is specifically geared to target students in college. That generation has grown up with computers and uses them every day. So where do college students get their news?
Andrew Payne, a PJC journalism student, said, “Normally I go to Yahoo.com or MSN just because it’s free, and I think it is probably the best news source. Every now and then if my dad has a newspaper sitting out I will pick it up.”
“I read the print news every once in a blue moon,” said Amanda Nelson, another journalism student at PJC.
Some may wonder why the younger generation seeks its news online. What are the benefits?
“I think that news online is more reliable because they give you different resources,” Payne said.
“It is easier for me to get access online because of my zoom text, a device for the visually impaired which enlarges my screen up to three times,” Nelson said.
“The most immediate advantage is that you reach more people faster. The News Journal has a circulation of 60,000 daily and 80,000 Sunday, but when you post something online you have the potential of reaching hundreds of thousands,” Suchcicki said.
Because of the many benefits of online communication, some are deciding to put down their newspapers and start picking up their computers.
“I think there is always going to be a place for something printed. It is just the method of being able to get the information out to you that is changing,” Drain said.