The field of journalism is in the midst of a paradigm shift in terms of the platforms used to disseminate information to the public and with the switch to a totally digital marketplace almost complete, some say the days of print media are numbered.
The journalism industry, which started as a field dominated by newspapers informing the public about current events, is now controlled by digital media such as websites and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Although the slow decline of print media is not new information, the future of the printed newspaper now seems to be in question more than ever. University of Memphis journalism professor Otis Sanford said journalism in the printed format will cease to exist in the near future. Sanford also said the reason print media continues to fade is largely due to today’s culture, and newspaper companies will start to, if they have not already, move to a completely digital platform.
“I used to say that it wouldn’t go away in my lifetime, but it’s going away,” Sanford said. “The Commercial Appeal will probably be all digital in the next five to 10 years – The Daily Helmsman will probably be digital in five years.”
While print has fallen behind in the generational evolution of journalism, TV and radio continue to survive and, in many respects, thrive. Sanford said radio and TV will survive the transition from print journalism to digital journalism, mainly due to their ability to display images, videos and stories in ways print cannot.
“There’s something about television that is magical,” Sanford said. “People like to see pictures and, in particular, they like to see themselves in pictures. Radio is different because it is already considered digital media, and listeners have the option to listen to whatever they want, like CNN.”
Age is also a major factor in the transition to the digital landscape. Today’s generation has not grown up using the newspaper as the primary source of news, and cultural trends illustrate that young people are not reading printed newspapers. UofM senior and theatre student Maxwell Thomas said newspapers are suited for people over the age of 50 rather than the younger demographics.
“You just won’t see a younger person in their twenties pick up and read a newspaper,” Thomas said. “Younger people, even people in their 30s and 40s, have become so tech savvy and are able to navigate the web – we don’t have much need for newspapers.”
Despite the transition from print to digital, many people believe in the future of the field of journalism. UofM journalism professor Thomas J. Hrach said there is still a need for journalists, even with a more digital platform.
“I think there’s still an incredible need for people to have news and information, maybe now more than ever,” Hrach said. “That need isn’t going away. The way people get news and information and the way journalists supply that information is probably changing.”
UofM students also believe journalism will not die out, with some saying the field will only expand in this new age. Freshman Hector Hillis said digital media will attract more people to the field of journalism.
“The fact that a lot of journalists now use technology and social media for work is only going to draw in more people,” Hillis said. “People my age are looking at this and think it’s awesome to be able to use your phone or Facebook to report live action news and even provide a bit of commentary to it as well.”