Technology’s false dawns: The past of media futures

Authored by: Lily Canter

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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The future of newspapers is once more under scrutiny. Throughout history each step forward in communication technology, whether it be the invention of the telegraph, the radio or the television, has brought with it fatalistic cries predicting the demise of the printed press. Further reinforcements have joined this tradition in the past two decades with the unprecedented expansion of the internet appearing to signal that the end of paper and ink is nigh. But the pessimistic media soothsayers seem to have rather missed the point. Instead of speculating about whether the printed newspaper will exist in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time, the more pertinent question is what form will this news medium take? History tells us that newspaper is a versatile form of communication which has always adapted to changing circumstances and the emergence of competing media. Indeed this ‘editorial Darwinism’ (Franklin, 2008: 307) is the key to its 400-year survival. All too often scholars and journalists alike separate the printed press from its online counterparts despite the continual convergence of newsrooms and practitioners’ roles. In the twenty-first century, a newspaper journalist is now a multimedia, digital journalist who writes copy for the paper, the website, the mobile website, social media channels and increasingly for tablet applications as well. This convergent journalism is both journalistic and economic and sees the coming together of different news platforms in terms of both production and ownership. Print media companies have once more adapted to market conditions and now hope to “find salvation by embracing innovation and integrating digital media” (Paulussen, 2011: 59). The newspaper may have had a long and illustrious narrative as a printed product but its future survival may now lie in multiple digital reincarnations.

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