Friday, July 24, 2015

Journalism at the dawn of the digital age

Journalism memory lane: Part 4

Personal computers, the World Wide Web, e-mail, cell phones, digital cameras, digital voice recorders and other tech advancements make things so much easier for journalists today. At the same time, now everyone has access to the same tools and can play journalist. (Hence the rise of bloggers and citizen journalists.)
Simple things like finding information on publicly traded companies or even corporate contact information used to be a chore. I remember poring over paper files at the Securities and Exchange Commission office in Washington, D.C. With the Web, there’s no need to leave the office for that any more.
Reporters used to spend a lot more time on the phone checking facts that now can be easily verified online.
Reporters also used to have a lot more paper clutter on their desks – files and documents they needed to research and write articles. Now that clutter has become digital – documents stored on PCs, bookmarks in Web browsers, and data in the Internet cloud.
The arrival of always-on, high-speed broadband Internet connections in the mid-1990s was a big deal. Getting a T-1 line at the office was a major coup for your workplace. Of course, now T-1 speeds are pokey.
My first e-mail account was through Rocketmail, which was purchased by Yahoo in 1997. I later abandoned it after it became inundated with spam e-mails. Today I use Web-based e-mail accounts from Yahoo and Google.
Old habits die hard and it took me a long time to switch from microcassette audio recorders to digital audio recorders for interviews. That switch happened maybe six years ago. I got sick of dealing with piles of microcassette tapes.
Other things that have gone bye-bye over the years include newspaper clips (why bother when your articles are searchable online?), Rolodexes and business card holders (LinkedIn and web searches have replaced those).
My first cell phone was a Motorola bag phone around 1990 that I used only in my car for “emergencies.” Voice minutes were expensive then. I didn’t use it for work. Using a cell phone for work didn’t happen for another 10 years or so.
Technology, like PCs, the Internet and mobile phones, has made journalists much more productive. But the news cycle has gone 24/7 and we’re always reachable.

Photo: Sony microcassette recorder (top); Rolodex business card file. 

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