With the advent of new technology, newspapers are being threatened. Many are expected to go out of business, and the rest will have to change substantially. Many observers fear that journalism will become too driven by speed, and that judgment and deliberation will be lost. Others said that news reporting would be devalued and only those providing analysis and opinion would survive. Worst of all, worries that the new technology will lead to a monopoly over information.
A description of the dire situation faced by newspapers today as they face the Internet? No. These are the concerns expressed in the 1840s as the telegraph transformed the news business. This week’s Economist tells the story of how Samuel Morse’s invention was thought to signal the death knell for newspapers, and to thoughtful journalism.
As it turned out, the news business was tranformed. But not in the ways many feared. With faster communications, the quality of news, and of the information Americans received, improved. Newspapers had to adapt, but survived and even prospered. And no one ever created a monopoly over information.