Chapter 10: The Changing Landscape of the Mass Media Rock-Bottom Essentials

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Chapter 10: The Changing Landscape of the Mass Media

Rock-Bottom Essentials:

Most media organizations produce news in a variety of formats

“Convergence” has blurred the distinction between the traditional categories of mass media including print, broadcast news, and online sources

Audiences are moving toward information on demand, seeking media platforms and outlets that can tell them what they want to know when they want to know it

Aggregators compile news and deliver it in what some view as a more user-friendly format

Electronic media approaches vary, including: podcasting (which some see as a reinvention of radio); blogs (which can facilitate public discussion and interaction); wikis (a form of citizen journalism); RSS (feeds that alert users to new material posted to their favorite blogs, news websites or other Internet sources); and social networks (such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter)

Traditional media, though declining in some areas and shifting in others, remains a central outlet (for now)

By the Numbers:

There are some one trillion unique URLS in Google’s Index

Approximately two billion Google Searches daily

The Online News Association, representing professional digital journalists, has more than 1,700 professional members

On average, it takes 20 on-line readers to generate the ad revenue of one print reader

Number of people globally who read blogs is 346 million

For Further Reading:

The Missouri Group, Telling the Story: The Convergence of Print, Broadcast and Online Media (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007)

Janet Kolodzy, Convergence Journalism: Writing and Reporting across the News Media (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006)

Debora Halpern Wenger & Deborah Potter, Advancing the Story: Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World (Congressional Quarterly Publishing, 2008)

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, The State of the News Media 2008, An Annual Report on American Journalism,

Chapter 10: The Changing Landscape of the Mass Media


Modern mass media consumption habits are changing—and fast!1 Today, environmental law and policy advocates must appreciate the changing landscape of mass media to successfully harness its power.2 As the Pew Research Center for People and the Press explained in 2008, “[f]or more than a decade, the audiences for most traditional news sources have steadily declined, as the number of people getting news online has surged. However, today it is not a choice between traditional sources and the Internet for the core elements of today’s news audiences. A sizable minority of Americans find themselves at the intersection of these two long-standing trends in news consumption.”3

To get a sense of how this evolution is impacting environmental coverage, it is interesting to review a 2007 “top 10” source list for environmental news compiled by an Internet-based environmental expert.4 That list began with six sources that are available either simultaneously or exclusively on-line (including the first, which is only available on the Internet): Grist Magazine,5 E/The Environmental Magazine,6 Environmental News Network,7 Environmental Health News,8 People & the Planet,9 and Earth Policy Institute.10 It is not until the seventh pick that U.S. newspapers are listed (including hometown papers as well as The New York Times,11 The Washington Post,12 and the Los Angeles Times13). It also lists as numbers eight and nine the generic categories of “International News Sources” and “News Aggregators” (including Google News14 and Yahoo News15). The expert closes the list with Government Agencies, but notes that one should always “take agency news with a grain of salt, of course. Besides protecting the environment, these agencies also provide public relations for the current administration.”16 To add to the focus on new media, in this day and age government agencies provide most of their information in digital format.17

“Best of” lists such as the one just described will, of course, vary in content. Yet despite likely minor disagreement as to which sources are actually tops in terms of the environment, it is likely that any “top” environmental news sources in this day and age will include a substantial number of Internet-based resource options. Even the iconic Pulitzer organization has expanded its awards to include on-line only news.18

News outlets are thus evolving. Platforms that offer news overlap and connect. As the Pew Center scholars noted, “[t]here is no single or finished news product anymore . . . and [a] news organization and a news Web site are no longer final destinations.”19 In short, as the first decade of the twenty-first century draws to a close, people expect more information, faster, and from more and combined sources.

In light of multi-faceted platforms and fast-paced change in the world of media coverage, environmental advocates must understand the nature of existing news outlets, and how such outlets might evolve. To help readers gain such understanding, we have organized this chapter into four parts. The first part discusses media “convergence” and how news coverage and transmission have transformed in recent decades. We then turn to how technological advances make modern news much more “audience-centric.” We then include a brief section on how the world of news might continue to evolve. We close the chapter with some tips for managing this new and evolving media landscape.

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