Did early newspaper-to-web technology jeapordize print?

In a post today on Poynter, a blogger comments on an article by Robert Niles in last week’s Online Journalism Review about early newspaper-to-print technology. Niles argues that the cumbersome early technology used to publish stories online made news managers complacent. They thought the inherent difficulty was widespread, that everyone would encounter the same slow, awkward process in posting stories online. If real articles published by real journalists appeared online only after a labored, time-intensive method of uploading, certainly no one else could challenge their efforts in disseminating news. Niles says this was a fatal mistake, allowing managers to ignore the expanding blogosphere and do nothing innovative themselves:

What if more managers had paid attention to the ease with which so many of us were cranking out our personal websites and charged us, on company time, to develop tools to allow all newspaper readers to do the same? Can you image what could have happened had newspapers developed and controlled the first blogging tools?
…By the time that online jockeys who didn’t have to struggle getting newspaper copy online had developed tools like Craigslist, Blogger and AdWords, the competition they unleashed overwhelmed the industry before newspaper managers could change their thinking.

Now, everyone is a journalist, chronicling news through their experience and posting stories without following standard journalistic procedures like copy editing and second reads. But early web journalism was less streamlined. And perhaps the casual attitude, the belief that professional journalists were the only experts on distributing news, will actually save print. Because when things are too easy, when too many people are posting similar stories and everyone is weighing in, maybe the simple newspaper, with easy-to-read fonts and ordered columns, will offer some relief from the constant flood of commentary from people who may burn out from sheer journalistic exhaustion.


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