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How Technology Has Changed The News

Apr 24, 2008
The way people follow the news has undergone major changes over the years. The technologies that allow us to communicate and get information are constantly being improved upon. For example, moveable type was an improvement upon older printing methods, the telephone was an improvement on the telegraph, and television was an improvement on the radio.

The trend all along has been toward a more global atmosphere. However, no technology has accomplished this as completely as the Internet.

A couple of hundred years ago, most newspapers focused on local news; any foreign news big enough to make the papers was often delayed a little, to account for slower methods of communication. Compare this to today, when you can read about something that happened halfway around the world, an hour or less after it occurred.

Until the telegraph was invented in the 1830s, there was simply no way to spread news quickly so local papers just reported local news. Even after the telegraph was invented, though, there were still limits on how quickly information could be relayed. A message had to be composed by the sender, sent in Morse code (which taps out each letter separately) by the telegraph operator, and interpreted and written down by the receiving telegraph operator who then had to find the recipient and deliver the message. Also, because telegraph messages were sent letter by letter, long messages (or lots of information) were inconvenient and expensive.

Printing also offered some hurdles for news reporting. Prior to 1800, printing presses were manually operated, which put severe limits on how many pages could be printed in an hour. Throughout the 19th century, the advent of steam-powered printing presses and other innovations enabled printers to more than quadruple the number of pages they could print in an hour.

As a result, newspapers were widely available by the mid to late1800s. More people learned to read, and more people read the news than ever before.

In the early 20th century, the arrival of the radio changed the nature of news forever. By the 1910s, radio stations have started broadcasting news and talk. Although the development of radio news programs was slowed somewhat by World War I, it quickly made up for lost time, and by the 1930s the newspapers had come to fear the competition. And for good reason: The radio enabled listeners to get the news without delay and without paying for it - two main features of print newspapers.

A couple of decades later, television presented a new way to get the news: The first big televised news program, "Hear It Now," started showing in 1951. This progressed to the way we know things now: a series of morning and evening news programs, making it easier than ever for people to find out what is happening in their communities and around the world.

The latter phrase "around the world" is key. Radio and TV made it possible for people to hear foreign news stories without much of a delay. For the first time in the history of the world, ordinary people could stay up on what was happening in foreign countries without having to wait for the next day's paper or spend money on it.

Innovations in printing and communication brought about major changes to how people got the news in the 19th century. Radio and TV created even bigger changes in the 20th century. But nothing can compare to the impact the Internet has made on the way we get the news.

The Internet has all of the same features radio and TV offered. It is immediate, free, long reaching, but even more so. For instance, the Internet doesn't have to wait for a regularly scheduled news program. Articles posted on a news website are available instantly to people across the globe. Also, while some news sites have experimented with paid subscriptions, most news is available for free. Finally, the long reach of the Internet has brought about concepts such as globalization, the idea that all the people in the world are interconnected, part of a single (albeit very large) community.

The Internet has done other things for the news, as well. In some ways, it has restored the idea of the newspaper, since we once again read news stories. We also deal with less in-your-face advertising: Both newspapers and the Internet allow you the option of not looking at the advertisements, whereas the radio and television force you to sit through scheduled commercials.

However, the Internet is also constantly advancing, which means the face of virtual news is always changing too. Videos have become popular on the Internet, so many news websites are starting to use video clips to complement, and sometimes even replace, written stories. Other sites, such as NPR, offer the option to play recordings of radio shows that have already aired.

The point is that technology is constantly changing the way we get the news. Although the Internet has made a tremendous impact on the news industry, it's safe to assume it's not over yet. There are always more changes and improvements that can take place.
About the Author
Andy West is a writer for Business Quest and Diogenes Lamp.
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