The Strengths and Weaknesses of Print vs. Broadcast News
By Ian Ségal
31 October 2019
In a world that has been described for centuries as being round, the power of innovation has not only figuratively flattened it but has also brought people and ideation closer together. That technology is the Internet and it has opened up a virtual landscape of expansiveness that has never been seen before. And one of the most fundamental benefactors of this growth across the frontier of cyberspace has been harnessed in communications and manifested in the sharing and distribution of news.
Within the domain of print and broadcast news, there are several similarities as well as differentiators that grade their individual strengths and weaknesses. And although print news harkens back to earlier years before television broadcast journalism, the reporters that create and distribute news content are typically held to the same ethical standards as one another (Dominick, 2013). Over the past several decades, people have gravitated toward one media or another as a result of their general behavior and personality preferences—some have been more visual while others preferred reading. And while reading printed news requires more dedicated time to digest a story, the partiality for broadcast news has had its appeal from those who find the visual outlet of television far more attractive than reading. In comparing and contrasting these news media, it is important to examine the contrasting features that have segregated them from one another.
Over three-hundred years ago, the early colonists in America began printing newspapers with the publication of Publick Occurrences in 1690 and The Boston News-Letter of the early 1700s (Dominick, 2013). In the absence of any other form of news media, this was the beginning of printed news and its distribution in America. In more modern times, during the 20th century, most of the strengths of printed news became more evident along with subscription delivery services to homes and offices. Other advantages to newspapers included but were not limited to segmented news for specific geographical areas, a greater representation of editorial columns, portability, time spent for leisurely reading, shareability, storability, and credibility based on the legitimacy of its corporate reputation (Dominick, 2013). And whether readers enjoyed perusing articles on their way to work or leisurely after enjoying dinner while melted into a sofa with legs couched on an ottoman, printed news has provided its readers with a valid source of information. But, these strong points were not without their disadvantages.
In comparison, some of the drawbacks of printed media include but are not limited to a short life (once the news is printed, it slowly becomes stale as it can no longer be updated) and absent of visual aids such as audio and video. Additionally, the actual printing of the paper could at times smudge and the material—that being paper—is not impervious to such elements as rain and other forms of precipitation. Furthermore, newspapers are not always demographically selective in their target readership and, from time to time, have highlighted news stories that have taken polar views regarding various subject matters. Other shortcomings observed that newspapers have not kept pace with the growing population which has been coupled with a decline in subscription-based readership as high as 30% over the past two decades (Dominick, 2013). And as the market base continues to dwindle, printed news remains challenged in sustaining itself in a world dominated by the real-time distribution of information across technology devices practically anywhere.
In retrospect, the mid-20th century through the early part of the 21st century has seen broadcast news dominating cultural interest, with several strengths that have differentiated it from its printed news counterpart. Some of these have included reaching a larger continental audience through syndicated broadcasting, occasional demographic targeting (dependent upon select story coverages), establishment as the prime source of news, and television appliances that can deliver a viewing experience with exceptional sound and video quality (Dominick, 2013). However, news broadcast companies have found that the high cost of production has forced their operations to seek larger advertising revenue from sponsors and, with a more recent shift to Internet news, such news broadcasts are beginning to feel the pinch in profitability. Additionally, with news broadcasts being limited to thirty- or sixty-minute television programs, reporters have been constrained to deliver stories within a short window of time and not always having the luxury of full disclosure or detail for their audience. Lastly, and although this is changing with the innovations of the Internet and mobile devices, broadcast news, for the most part, has not been portable—confined to television sets that are fixed within a home or office.
What remains important to consider is that as the world continues to evolve into the digital age of the 21st century, both print and broadcast news have suffered these technological growing pains. And in an effort to survive these changing times, both of these media have invested many resources, financial and otherwise, into digitally transforming their products and services—both have found new homes on the Internet featuring their news stories. Yet, the sell has been somewhat difficult for print media which, for the most part, continues to elicit a subscription-based model from its readership—this has not been favorably received by former newspaper readers. The reason for this is due in fact that broadcast news has been able to deliver its experience across a myriad of mobile devices—from laptops to cell phones and tablets—thus acclimating to the digital age by offering their audiences the broadcast experience they want. With cable TV subscriptions, most households are able to enjoy streaming broadcast news using web apps on various mobile devices with no additional cost. And as the digital revolution continues to shepherd the global community deeper into the age of real-time information and news, the abandonment of printed newspapers coupled with the holistic transformation of broadcast news may be closer than the world knows.
In recap, the expanse of the Internet in most cases is immeasurable and continues to represent a frontier that has not been fully explored. And across that landscape, the actors on its stage offer a wide range of information that is not always credible. Along those lines, the task of vetting the quality and veracity of material published on web sites and social media platforms is both overwhelming and exhausting. In parallel, cybercrime has risen to a level in which sophisticated tools are being used to extort money through such corruptions as click fraud while debasing the business of online advertising. And lastly, while the Internet continues to grow on the vanguard of information exchange, the media of the not so distant past has waned in the shadow of the digital age. To this outcome, print and broadcast news have been forced to reinvent themselves to fit inside the new world order of the 21st century. Surviving these changing times may be a battle that will ensue with an unfavorable outcome, but only time will tell.
Dominick, J. R. (2013). The dynamics of mass communication: media in transition (12th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.