I’m not terribly happy with this first installment of the page-a-day series, but then I suppose I’m not going to be terribly happy with some/many of them at first.  What’s more important: I’m getting something done.  So here’s what I wrote (in probably about an hour and a half) this evening:

The Information Cycle

“On the Internet, the traditional information cycle is broken in a variety of ways.  News may be reported, analyzed, debated, corrected, and reinterpreted in a matter of hours.  Old stories from decades ago may be re-examined.  Factual information can be evaluated, expanded upon, and expounded on by a wide variety of readers” (Notess, 34).

One of the driving forces behind the “Newspaper Crisis,” a force often tacitly acknowledged but not explicitly analyzed, is the simple problem of media speed.  As I’ve mentioned previously, several of the causes of the Crisis are secondary causes stemming from a simple, accepted fact: news consumers are tending to prefer online sources for news.  One main reason for that preference seems to be that online sources have faster publication practices and are available on a more flexible temporal (and spatial) availability.  Those two factors–faster publication and more flexible availability–might seem, at first, like two ways of saying the same thing; I would argue, though, that they represent two distinct aspects of the changing media environment, each of which carries with it…………………………..

Faster publication is, on face, an easy enough phenomenon to comprehend.  Anyone who has used a smart phone to write a blog post, upload a picture or video, or even just update a social-media website, can understand the ways in which those publication practices differ drastically from the traditional editing, proofing, printing, and distribution of text-based news.  The classic example of this phenomenon, oft cited by scholars of journalism, is the London Metro bombing of 2005.  On July 7, 2005, a series of three bombs exploded in the busy London train system (as well as a fourth, later, on a double-decker bus) killing 52 people, and injuring 700 more.  Initial reports from police and government officials either attributed the explosions to  accidental causes (a gas leak) or pleaded for more time to investigate the situation.  Almost immediately following the explosion, however, commuters began snapping pictures with camera-phones of the carnage caused by the explosions.  One such photo, of smoke billowing out of a Metro tunnel and passengers fleeing the area, wound up on the front page of the BBC website and of the New York Times.  [Other answers to the “verifiability of information” argument that warns of the dangers of news speed: H.L. Mencken’s Bathtub Hoax, which took 8 years to correct, is still seen places as a viable explanation of bathtub history, and… ]

“It is the ability of the new online environment to quickly and easily correct, or at least criticize, information that makes the online medium so different from print.  One problem with the published world of information as seen in books and periodicals is that despite editing, fact checking, and the peer review process, all kinds of errors still found their way into print, as the Mencken hoax illustrates” (Notess, 37).

Flexible availability may not, in fact, mean that the concept of a news cycle dies out altogether, however.  Indeed, as [theorist I have to look up later] points out, studies have shown that despite a media-saturated world, a large majority of news-consuming Americans continue to read/watch/listen to news at predictable times of day.  [need to finish this with info from the iPad story about the need for a new “evening edition” paper]