Angela Phillips

16The Technology of Journalism

Abstract: Journalism has always had a symbiotic relationship with technology. Any technologies that will provide greater spread or speed in communication have either been adopted by existing news organisations or have provided a platform for new competing market entrants. However, historically it has been the way these technologies have been monetised, and the intervention of Government via regulation, that has determined the way they are used and the form that journalism takes. We are now entering a new phase of disruption in both monetisation and reception. The time is ripe for new forms of social intervention to ensure that technology continues to work in the service of journalism and of the public.

Keywords: technology, technology of journalism, medium theory, journalism and medium theory

Journalism has always had a symbiotic relationship with technology. Any technologies that will provide greater spread or speed in communication have either been adopted by existing news organizations or have provided a platform for new competing market entrants. Usually the existing technologies are retained in some form and continue to be used alongside the newer ones (Bakker & Sabada 2008). The rise of the Internet and mobile digital technology has combined previous technologies on one platform and provided new ways of finding information and people and exciting possibilities for accessing data and holding governments and companies to account. It provides unprecedented access to people far away and a conduit for messages sent out by those trapped in war zones or by totalitarian regimes. And it has speeded up news delivery.

These are all important extensions of the existing technologies and they all contain within them the possibility of improving the depth and the breadth of journalism but, I will argue in this chapter, the particularities of the way in which the technology is operated, are not immanent in the machinery, they are the product of decisions, often made without clear understanding of the outcome and always subject to the institutional pressure of power in the journalistic field and from disruptive forces outside the field (Bourdieu 2005).

So, for example, as journalism spread from newspapers, into radio and television in the 20th century, there were casualties amongst the newspapers, but the survivors become bigger and richer through gobbling up the remains of the smaller news organizations (Lee-Wright, Phillips & Witschge 2011). This period of print consolidation and growing local monopolies in the 1990s meant that profits in the USA and the UK were high and there was plenty of money to experiment online (Phillips 2015: 31). Within five years of the advent of the World Wide Web, 175 American newspapers had launched their own websites. Ten years afterwards there were only two large American newspapers that did not yet have a web presence (Boczkowski 2005: 8). Indeed, so fast did the news organizations rush to embrace online working that few really stopped to consider what it might do to their business models.

As with every previous technological development, the delivery of news changed, though arguably the changes were less profound than those necessitated by previous revolutions. The introduction of the telegraph had brought with it an entirely new way of writing copy (Carey 1969); radio introduced the idea of speaking rather than writing news and required a very different approach to the delivery of information. Television news, even more than radio, required condensation of information into short bursts and the use of images changed the way in which news was prioritized. Stories with good pictures climbed up the news agenda, stories without pictures required simplification to avoid boring the viewers. The Internet brought all three media onto a single platform and introduced more informal ways of producing material. Much has been made of the new distributed nature of news and the changing role of the audience but the major changes for journalists have been two-fold: the speed with which information can now be researched, collected, and passed on and the changes in business practices that have damaged the funding basis on which they depend.

Journalists in each era have learned new skills and those who were unable to do so have been dropped by the wayside (Lee Wright, Phillips & Witzchge 2011). With each change there has been a period of experimentation and an exhilarating sense of freedom as new forms and possibilities for wider participation are explored and tested, followed by a period of consolidation and closure as new income streams are developed to support the technology and the new medium is brought under control (Wu 2010). We are now engaged in an inevitable battle between competing visions of the Internet as big business finds ways to control and monetize the flow of information. In this unwinding, the question of whether journalists use mobile phones to speak their news, or make use of hyper-real newsgathering techniques is merely the detail. The future is all about how journalism will be accessed, how that will impact on the democratic role of news and how it will all be paid for.

1Is the medium the message?

For Medium theorists, led by Marshall McLuhan, the impetus behind this cycle from invention to adoption and consolidation lies in the technology itself. Once invented, these theorists suggest, media technologies trigger changes in society that dwarf the importance of the messages they carry and dramatically change what comes afterwards.

It is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. (McLuhan 1964: 16)

McLuhan saw the emergence of television – with its ability to connect people via all their faculties rather than merely via text (and eyes) – as a return to an earlier, and more benign moment of human communication, presaging a time when people across the globe, through knowing and seeing one another, would render the world a “global village”. He saw television as a liberating, participative medium that would introduce people to worlds beyond their own and link them in empathetic understanding. He argued that the new electronic forms of visual technology would introduce a new pattern of human behaviour, moving from individualism to collectivism and that the medium of television ushered in the end of the age of deference because of its capacity to allow ordinary people to see into the lives of the rich and famous. Meyrowitz, a follower of McLuhan, suggests (2008: 111) that the new transparency has changed power relationships because “the common person has less to lose from exposure and visibility” than the powerful who are dependent on their reputations.

These arguments appear at first glance compelling and they underlie much of the early optimism about the inevitably democratising impact of the Internet on journalism from writers including: Negroponte (1996), Shirky (2009), Beckett (2008) Gillmor (2006), and Jarvis (2009). But it is overly deterministic to attribute changes to the technologies themselves rather than to the social forces from which the technologies emerge. Technology both makes, and is made, by the era and circumstances of its use. Without this recognition, it is possible to profoundly misread the initial upheavals of new technologies and overlook the power that is required to shape them as they develop. Indeed it could be equally strongly argued that it was the messages circulating at the time that influenced McLuhan’s interpretation of the way this new medium would be used. His concept of a global village fitted in very snugly alongside other slogans of the 1960s: “flower power”, “make love not war”, and “turn on, tune in, drop out” which was allegedly uttered by Timothy Leary at the first “Be-in” at the Golden Gate Park, California in 1967.

McLuhan’s belief that television was inherently more participative (cool in his terminology) than radio or print seems strange to us now when we have got used to seeing it as a medium which facilitates, in Baudrillard’s words, “speech without response” (1981: 169). Television may have helped audiences to see what happens in countries far away, but just being able to see bombs dropping, or people starving, doesn’t by itself elicit the kind of humanitarian response that McLuhan conceptualized in his Global Village.

Indeed, looking back, television is probably the least participative technology available to us. A point made well by Robert Putnam, in his book Bowling Alone (2000). Putnam argues that, television, rather than liberating and fostering participation has had entirely the opposite effect. He argues that it has broken civic links and turned Americans into a nation of disengaged loners. True, both Putnam and McLuhan see media technologies as the “deus ex machina” of civilization but the effects they predict are totally at odds with one another. If technology were the driver of change, it ought to be possible to read the direction of change from the technology itself. Not deterred by the failure of television to usher in a new, more participative world, his followers see in McLuhan’s writing a pre- imagining of the emergence of the Internet some thirty years later.

Indeed, these new technologies have been used, by sizable minorities at least, to organize resistance to dominant corporate and government power, thereby offering supporting examples of McLuhan’s notions of electronic media encouraging participation, decentralization, and a flattening of hierarchies. (Meyrowitz 2001: 10–11)

Such optimism is attractive but still flawed. The capacity of a medium is dependent on the circumstances of its use and the relative power of those who watch and those who are watched. The much-vaunted opening up of a two way relationship between audiences and journalists has been found to operate mainly in one direction: journalists use social media to search for private information about ordinary people who have been caught up in news events (Fitts 2015; Phillips 2010). Powerful people have learned to protect their information and use the courts to guard their privacy.

In the early period of a technical innovation there are often utopian dreams of democratization but they are then absorbed and consolidated by the forces of capital and power. As Evgeny Morozov points out in The Net Delusion, electronic media are not independently capable of encouraging any kind of activity and networks are as easily used for authoritarian purposes as for progressive ones. The question we need to ask is not so much how the technology works but who has the power to make use of it most effectively and to what end?

Iran’s Twitter Revolution did have global repercussions. Those were, however, extremely ambiguous and they often strengthened rather than undermined authoritarian rule. (Morozov 2012: 14).

Raymond Williams in his essay “The Technology and Society” (1974), argues that technologies are not separate from society. They don’t drive the social changes that flow from them. The process of technological development is an active one that moves with and for society as it is changing. We can see this when we consider journalism. The core purpose of journalism today is similar to that which emerged in the 17th century. The way it is produced and delivered has changed with every new technical invention but the form of change has never been inevitable. It has been a product of the movement of capital, processes of power, and the ingenuity of individuals and political organizations, taking advantage of momentary gaps that emerge in the flux.

As we shall see, with each change in technology the field of journalism has shifted, opened up and then consolidated. At each change there have been moments when the control of capital and of elites has slipped, allowing for a sudden flowering of new and often more radical ideas, but each time the needs of the power elite have moved back in, to consolidate the requirements of business, to underpin the needs of democracy, or to take direct control of the political narrative because power rests, not merely in the medium, as medium theorists postulate, but in the ability to shape the message.

2Free markets, journalism and technology

Technology is initially open and allows for many possible uses until it can be monetized, at which point the number of options tend to close down. Those who invest in media technology, on the whole, do so for political advantage or for monetary gain. The product which then emerges will always bear the trace of its financing and the political struggles waged to control it. The eventual shape and use of the technology is then determined by the outcome of these struggles for control so while all communication technologies have emancipatory potential, that potential is only ever partially realized.

The very earliest communications technology was available to all – a sharp stone used to make a sign. By the time signs had developed into words, their circulation had already been restricted because only the elite were literate. As writing developed it became a luxury good, produced by skilled crafts people and consumed only by those with the necessary knowledge.

Printing extended the possibilities of writing but its use was limited partly by the relatively few people who could read and partly by the capital required to build presses and buy inks paper and trained assistants. Gutenberg, who built the first press in Europe, in the mid-15th century, lost his business to the man who initially financed it. Indeed every technical breakthrough has rested on a combination of technology, money, and opportunity. If the presses were to survive they needed a steady supply of customers and printed products with a long shelf life. News had a very short shelf life so demand would need to be very high indeed to offset the cost of printing – and at that time few people could read. Bibles were a better product: they had a steady market amongst the literate.

However, within fifty years of its invention, printing presses were being used to spread the message of church reformation – in direct opposition both to the established Catholic church and to the rulers who depended on the church for their legitimacy (Marshall & Ryrie 2002: 167). In those parts of Northern Europe where Protestantism was in the ascendency, Lutheran tracts and vernacular bibles were printed and exported carrying the first stirrings of opposition to the Catholic establishment and the kings who ruled in its name.

In Britain even strict state control failed to hold back the production of dissident literature so, in the mid-16th century, the control of the presses was devolved to a newly formed printer’s Guild. Thus the power of the state and the power of the newly emerging merchant classes were combined to try and control what could be produced and distributed. A form of licensing was established to deter or prosecute those people who used the printing press to produce literature that could be construed as anti-establishment (Conboy 2004: 13). The distribution of general news continued to rely mainly on a low tech, cheap solution – hand copying and word-of-mouth (Darnton, in Rantenen 2009) which was not covered by laws against printing (Conboy 2004: 10, 11).

In Britain, the tight control of the printing trade made it very difficult for printers and booksellers to make money out of periodical printing. Only material that was un-contentious and had a clear market value would be produced on legal presses. So the earliest recognizable form of printed news was business news. Traders could make money if they had information about prices and trading conditions. Early knowledge of a crop failure, for example, would allow one merchant to stock up his warehouse at lower prices and then sell on at a bigger profit. This kind of news had an audience prepared to pay both for printing and transport because the information supplied was potentially so valuable.

The political press could not demand high prices (Conboy 2004: 14) and the combination of restrictive libel laws and taxation of the legal (stamped) press increased its costs. But ironically, in Britain, the high cost of the legal press meant that illegal (unstamped) publications could be produced at lower prices and, although, those who circulated them did so at some risk, it meant that for a period in the late 17th and 18th centuries, as education and literacy spread, the radical press boomed, attracting circulations that were as high, or higher, than the commercial papers. (Curran & Seaton 2010: 7). In America, a similar blossoming of news periodicals was encouraged by a government keen to enable democratic debate and supported by cheap postage and direct subsidy (McChesney & Nichols: 2010). This was the period of freedom, described by Habermas in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), when people with anti-establishment views found themselves free to speak out. However this was not the exercise of a commercial market in ideas, but rather a momentary blossoming of voices before the full effects of marketization came into play.

It was the needs of commercial newspaper proprietors that drove the next major developments of the printing press. In 1814 the Times of London bought two of the very first steam-powered rotary presses allowing the paper to be mass-produced and ushering in the era of mass media, but it wasn’t until the repeal of news licensing, in the middle of that century, that commercial news production, with the additional subsidy of advertising, really took off in Britain. As commercial news dropped in price, it undercut the radical press, which had to survive entirely on what its readers could afford to spend. “Market forces succeeded where legal repression had failed in conscripting the press to the social order in mid-Victorian Britain” (Curran & Seaton 2010: 5).

In America, where the press had never been taxed, a similar rise in advertising income, encouraged the phasing out of state subsidies. These developments ensured that, never again, were audiences expected to pay for the full cost of news production. Thus the idea that news was a cheap and disposable product took root. A more commercial press, dependent on higher circulation and advertising, gradually became less diverse because the largest advertising subsidy will always cling to the most popular product in any market allowing it to outpace and undercut its rivals (McChesney & Nichols 2010: 131). It is this factor rather than anything inherent in the technology that has determined the way in which print has developed and the messages it predominantly contains.

In every era emergent technologies have been heralded as the dawn of a new more democratic era: in the early period of radio, amateur radio enthusiasts established networks and provided content alongside professional journalists (Wu 2010: 36); with the introduction of cheap offset litho and computer typesetting in the 1970s there was a proliferation of counter-cultural print productions that were arguably more important in spreading new ideas than television, which required very high start-up costs and was never really an open medium (Phillips 2007: 47); in the late 1980s the emergence of direct input computers radically reduced the price of print production for small organizations. New newspapers emerged but most were quickly under-cut by larger organizations, with deeper pockets, whose costs were also reduced. In the UK, for example, News International was found guilty of deliberately selling the Times newspaper at a loss in order to maintain its market dominance (Harrison 1999).

The Internet, and in particular the World Wide Web, arrived during a period which has some similarities to the early 19th century. In the earlier period, capitalism was in the process of consolidating as a major alternative power to the established power of the state. In the early 1990s resurgent free market capitalism in the United States, provided an alternative narrative to the more collectivist governments of the mid-20th century. Just as the market crushed radical journalism and reduced diversity in the mid-Victorian era, so the market has taken what was seen as a similar era of liberation and driven the voice of dissent to the fringes while the centre stage is occupied by ever larger multi-national oligopolies, that increasingly control what we read and see. According to media consultant Matthew Goldstein, “Based on my calculations, by 2017 Facebook and Google will control 65 percent to 70 percent of digital media dollars” (Schiff 2016). What history tells us is that those who own the advertising revenue control the content.

The reality of the centralizing power of the Internet has been offset in the public consciousness by the decentralizing nature of its technology. In common with pen and paper, radio and telephony, the Internet incorporates within it the possibility of reciprocation. It is as easy for anyone to publish on the Internet as it is to write with a pen on paper. However, ease of participation has become fatally confused with ease of reception, just as it was in the very early days of radio when amateur enthusiasts created networks on similar lines (Wu 2010: 39). They are in fact distinct processes. Just as, theoretically, anyone with access to pen and paper could have jumped on a horse and taken their message to the king in the 16th century, anyone with access to the Internet can today send a message to the president or the prime minister, but sending is not the same as receiving. The participative power of the Internet is built into its technology, but the information offered up requires organization and that is inevitably hierarchical (Hindman 2009) so only the most popular searches ever appear at the top of the search results. The biggest organizations, with the largest audiences, have a built in advantage and they are increasingly dependent on a tiny number of global companies that control search engines and social media platforms.

The power of the search companies as a gateway to information can be compared with rise of the news agencies in the 19th century. The news agencies making use of the speed of the newly invented electronic telegraph divided the world into sections in which each had a monopoly of news-gathering and distribution (Herman & McChesney 2001: 12). They fed reports to news organizations, which could then sell the information on to their local audiences. This reduced the cost of news gathering and made information widely available to audiences, but it also sharply reduced the diversity of voices and opinions that could be heard and dramatically changed the way in which news was gathered, and news reports were written. The monopoly status of the agencies in combination with the particular affordances of the technology, leant itself to a terse form of factual reporting, in which emphasis is provided by the ordering of the story rather than by the particular political position of the writer. If news was to be distributed to both sides in a dispute then the information needed to at least appear to be neutral. Thus telegraph and the agencies ushered in the era of faux objectivity (Carey 1969: 23–38). News organizations engaging in monopoly practices could defend the damage to plurality by invoking neutrality. If journalists were professionals and news could be seen to be “neutral” then diversity of opinion was no longer an issue (Emery, Emery & Roberts 1996).

However the news organizations still controlled the news product and delivered it to the consumer – either blandly neutral, or inflected to a particular editorial line, depending on the social environment and the delivery method. The Internet companies are changing that historic relationship by inserting themselves between the process of news-gathering and news reception and they are severely limiting the supply of money going back into journalism. A 2015 survey by the American Society of Newspaper Editors found a 42 percent decrease in journalists in newsrooms from the industry peak in 1990 (ASNE 2015) just before the launch of the Web. Thus a form of technology that was invented as a horizontally organized distributive and collaborative system, is now being organized around the needs of the big technology companies at the expense of the news companies and arguably, unless the starvation of news production is reversed, also at the expense of democracy.

3Technology, monopoly and regulation

The communications market has always had a problem with monopolies (Murdoch 2000; Herman & McChesney 2001; Bourdieu 2005). When there are barriers to market entry because initial investment is high (as in the case of the printing press), or access to audiences is limited by technology or broadcast spectrum (as in the case of the electric telegraph, radio, and television) the right to communicate is restricted to those who have the money to pay for equipment or buy licences, or both.

As media moved towards greater concentration, democracies initiated ways of counteracting this tendency for the sake of democratic debate (Murdoch 2000, Hallin & Mancini 2004). In Europe the telegraph was nationalized to allow equal access to news organizations. In the USA a single company became a monopoly provider. In Northern Europe, forms of subsidy were introduced to encourage diversity of news ownership. In the USA and the UK anti-trust legislation was introduced to prevent consolidation of the press. Neither approach has been completely successful. In the USA for example, at the start of the 20th century, the majority of newspapers were privately owned but by the end of the century, 40 percent were owned by public corporations and most were part of chains. The same process has occurred in Europe (Phillips & Witschge 2012: 6). In the UK six companies own 80 percent of local newspapers and bring in 85 percent of revenue in the sector (Media Reform Coalition 2015).

The development of radio moved far faster from plenty to oligopoly. Radio in its early stages was largely financed by the British military (Flichy 1999: 78). During the First World War the British and American military took temporary control of broadcasting, but after the war, the door was opened to a period of unbridled experimentation in which anyone with a cheap crystal set could both hear and broadcast messages. In 1920 radios had not yet started to be produced on an industrial scale so audiences were limited, there was no means established for broadcasts to be paid for and, initially they were established as add-ons to the daily work of newspaper journalists or provided by amateur radio enthusiasts (Flichy 1999: 85). This early move into a new medium has echoes of the enthusiasm to embrace online news. In both cases the interest in the possibilities of the medium preceded any sense as to how it would be paid for.

It was clear from the start that access to the available airwaves would need to be shared out because a free-for-all meant that nobody could be heard. In the UK the problem of radio was solved by the introduction of licence fees for people buying radio sets and the organization of radio programming was handed over to a publicly owned monopoly: the BBC. The idea of public ownership became the dominant form in Europe and Canada. In pre-war Germany and the Soviet Union, radio was under state control. In the USA private licences were issued to two private companies (NBC and CBS) and content was paid for via advertising. Television followed the same pattern and, as a result, news was dominated by monopoly, or near monopoly, providers across the world. In the UK and much of Northern Europe, news coverage was obliged to be politically balanced and available on all channels, at a variety of times every day. In the USA the “Fairness Doctrine” was established (1949) which also obliged commercial broadcasters to provide similarly politically neutral news.

As television became the most popular medium for receiving news across the developed world, those countries that maintained public broadcasting and regulation, also tended to maintain a higher level of news engagement and news knowledge. Research in Denmark found that the introduction of television coincided with a growth in civic involvement (Torpe 2003). In the United States, the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987 during a period of de-regulation, after the introduction of cable television and the habit of watching television news began to decline. The decline was particularly steep among lower income and less educated communities (Esser et al. 2012; Aalberg & Curran 2012) and, as Putnam (2000) observed, civic involvement also declined. While it is hard to isolate specific reasons for the differences between Denmark and the USA, it would be perverse to ascribe it to the technology. Television was the most popular mass medium in both countries – it was the media context and the messages that differed.

The Internet and then the World Wide Web, arrived in the de-regulatory atmosphere of post-Reagan America, in which the concepts of press freedom and freedom of trade were already conflated, any attempt to restrain or regulate, anywhere in the world, was seen as evidence of egregious interference in the lives of free individuals. As with all the new media technologies described above, there was a period of experimentation, when the Internet seemed to promise a new and more democratic world, in which peer to peer communication would at last overturn the media monopolies that had developed in the previous era. But once again the search for a business model capable of monetizing the technology has ended up dominating the way in which it is used.

Into this unregulated arena we are now seeing the rise of social media platforms as the gateway to the news. Television was still (in 2016) the most important medium for accessing news across Europe, but Facebook is pulling ahead in the USA and in Europe it is fast catching up as the default platform for news, and news organizations are now competing for access to its users. But Facebook is a very unpredictable tap. According to The Monday Note (2016) only 6 percent of the news stories that could go to individual subscribers actually make it into their feed and it is the Facebook algorithm (and the influence of friends) that determines which stories are picked. The news that arrives this way has been sorted, filtered, and is then delivered to individual taste with a tendency to favour soft news stories over anything serious (Bocskowski, Mitchelstein & Walter 2011; Pariser 2011; Bell 2015; Phillips, Elvestad & Feuerstein 2015).

Meyrowitz’s hope that this medium would encourage “participation, decentralization, and a flattening of hierarchies” (2008), has happened – up to a point. Everyone is now involved, via their data, in deciding which stories they will see but this method of news selection also divides and polarizes (Weeks & Holbert 2013) – and it shatters any notion of shared cultural knowledge. When news is chosen by personal selection, growing numbers cut themselves off from the broad normative news stream of the centralized news systems. The person sitting next to you on a train doesn’t know what you know and you have no idea what your parents or your children know. We live atomized lives, fed happy stories (Newman 2013: 24), by a growing global media oligopoly that is being carved out from a technology that promised the opposite.

4Money, technology and the future of news

The fact that the new technologies are global in their reach means that intervention by national government is far harder than it has been in the past. Those countries that have evolved a publicly accountable approach to broadcast media are dealing with (mostly) American companies that have largely left public accountability to the market. Any attempts to regulate are opposed on the grounds that they are an attack on market freedom. Journalism is caught in the middle. It has access to unrivalled opportunities for news-gathering and dissemination and new opportunities for collaborative working, due to advances in technology, but it is prevented from exploiting them properly because it is increasingly cut off from the life-blood that has sustained it for over two hundred years. It is also increasingly cut off from the audiences it seeks to collaborate with – forced into an indirect relationship via data feedback from social media companies.

When Google emerged in 1998, journalists greeted it with enthusiasm because at last they had a means by which they could search the mountains of dross that filled the Internet, for the gems that would be useful to their work. They did not imagine that within a very short time, Google would replace their home pages as the means by which their audiences found them and siphon off most of their advertising. Nor did they expect the subsequent attack from ad-blocking companies that, on the pretext of greater audience choice, allow people to access news, free from the last remaining scraps of advertising that they manage to attract online. And now the mobile telephone companies are waiting in the wings. It seems likely that, as mobile technology becomes the preferred access point for news, the nature and ownership of control may change again. Telephone companies are already using technology that blocks advertising (Cookson 2015). They are interested in a seamless experience for their users and control over any advertising on mobile screens. Whether they decide to establish their own news organizations, to replace those that will thus be starved of funds, remains to be seen.

The place of journalism as an independent voice monitoring the work of government and big business has always been compromised by the means of its support. If it is a provided through public licensing, it tends to occupy a safe middle ground. If it is left to the market it is inclined to favour soft stories over hard-hitting investigations and if it is left to personal preference, it tends to polarize rather than producing consensus. None of these options has ever been perfect. All depend on a mixture of government action and commercial decision-making in addition to technical solutions.

In 1787 Jefferson wrote: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or a newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter” (McChesney & Nichols 2010: 119). His intervention ensured that, in America, government subsidies were established to underwrite the existence of a free press. As general news journalism is gradually cut off from direct access to an independent income, sustaining news has once again become an issue of public concern. The solutions will not lie in technology alone. It is up to society to decide whether it values this profession highly enough to ensure that some form of serious, monitorial journalism, survives into the future.

Further reading

A discussion of the interconnection between technical and social change can be found in James Carey’s (1969) Technology and Ideology: The Case of the Telegraph and in Raymond Williams essay (1974), ‘The Technology and Society’. Martin Conboy’s (2004) Journalism a Critical History and Terhi Rantanen’s (2009), When News Was New, provide the historical context to the interconnection between journalism and technology and Matthew Hindman (2009) The Myth of Digital Democracy adds the more recent debate on the social function of algorithms. Eiri Elvestad and Angela Phillips (2018) will bring these debates together in Misunderstanding the News Audience, Routledge.


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