Print newspapers are a push medium with a fixed spatial size and patterned structure and design elements. They have an order and hierarchy of information that is imposed on them by professional editors. Some of these things are matters of convention -- in some early newspapers front pages looked like classified ad pages today.
It is not just professional journalists but professional editing that we get, affecting both the content of the articles and the ordering of the newspaper. The restrictions of the physical form and the forcing of choices often has benefits.
Another aspect of the physical form is visual scale. The Oregonian is 23.5 inches across spread out, and the print columns fit within eleven inches across on each sheet. Print space runs just over 21 inches top to bottom. The visual field one scans quickly is both broad and high; headlines give visual cues. Contrast that to the endlessly scrolling 5 inches wide of this comment column.
Web based news is a "pull" or maybe better a "reach" medium. For people already inspired to reach out, it can be superior, you can look for related stories from multiple sources & points of view, & as guests mentioned more primary or closer to primary or more detailed information may be available via the online "papers" themselves. Readers can escape the restraints imposed by editorial judgments that may reflect prejudice or preference or mistaken professional standards of "newsworthiness".
There is a trade-off of the scope of information available with the meta-information of ordering that professional judgments provides. Online journalism will improve as it finds ways to reassert in less restrictive but still informative ways the information of editorial judgment about relative importance. Re-creating in new form that value added by editors may be tied to the funding issue.
Scrolling interacts in a bad way with attention span. I am not sure why. If you are in college writing a paper, two pages double spaced (500-600 words) is a short paper. In a paper it is a short-form op-ed or short story. On-line it is a very long text indeed.
On the ecology question, the production cycle for newspapers includes raw materials for paper, industrial paper making, raw materials for ink & inkmaking, raw materials for presses & fabrication of presses, raw materials and fabrication of tools needed for writing and photography, including transport for reporting, actual printing of the paper, waste in all those processes, transport of all those items including raw material & fabrication of vehicles used, plus final delivery of papers to homes or distribution/sales points, plus recycling.
However, reading news online is not costless. The elements related to content creation probably aren't that different. Servers stand sort of where printing presses do. Computers (or PDAs etc.) have their own production & distribution cycles & involve quite toxic industrial materials and processes, many not easily recyclable, not to mention reliance on petroleum-based plastics for basic structure. They also have short life-cycles and frequent replacement partly for technical but partly for marketing reasons. Likewise with transmission wires &/or wireless broadcast equipment using low-level radiation whose possible health consequences are debated. Re the computers, a key question is whether "people would have them anyway" so that attributing their ecological costs shouldn't be down to papers, vs. how much of demand for computers etc, and for ever-newer & faster ones, in fact relates to desire for "news" and other information searching (as opposed to personal communication or data processing). I'd say the proportion is quite high.
posted 4 years, 3 months ago
view in context