Media Changed By Audience Essay, Research Paper
Changing audience forces media to change their ways
It s no secret. During the past 40 years, the trust that was once invested in the media has slowly declined. In a poll conducted by the Gallup Organization in November 2000, journalists and reporters were given an average to low rating for honesty and ethical standards. Professions ranked lower than newspaper reporters in this poll were insurance salesmen, advertising practitioners and car salesmen.
Those who think that the media have become bias and partisan also believe that the lack of journalistic objectivity caused the decrease in the media s audience. However, a study conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Medill News Service Washington Bureau suggests that it was the diminishing audience that caused a change in the style of journalistic writing.
According to David Mindich in his book ‘Just the Facts: How ‘Objectivity’ Came to Define American Journalism,’ objectivity has been an issue since 1690. Although it may not have applied to journalism before the 20th century, objectivity was alive and well when Benjamin Harris declared in Publick Occurrences, North America s first newspaper, his intention to provide a Faithful Relation of considerable things as have arrived unto our Notice.
American newspapers did not unhinge from their formal party ties, Katz says, until the 1830s. In the 1890s, the ethic of objectivity is applied to journalism, and the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics highlighted objectivity as its central tenet when it was founded in 1909.
The introduction of the radio in the 1920s took from newspapers audiences, but it didn t have nearly the same impact as the invention of television in the late 1940s. This was a blow from which the newspaper industry still has not fully recovered.
Television made people lazy, said Jarred Weaver, a reporter for the Chillicothe Gazette. Young people would rather sit on the couch and have the news spoon-fed to them than read the newspaper. Print media is actively competing for its audience.
From the late 1940s through the early 1970s, broadcast and print media, for the most part, competed for the same audience. In the early 1970s, newspaper readership dipped considerably. According to the study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Medill News Service Washington Bureau, it wasn t until after 1977 that the emphasis on news coverage shifted from mostly straight, objective news stories (52 percent) to human-interest stories and news you can use.
Even as households increased from 63 million in 1970 to 97 million in 1994, newspaper circulation fell from 62 million to 60 million, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Network newscasts viewership peaked at 41 percent of households in 1980-81 and fell to 28 percent in 1994-95.
After the 1980s, broadcast media was no longer adding to their audience; it was a matter of maintaining the audience they had. The general public was beginning to see television as a means of entertainment, not an information source. The journalism profession needed to re-evaluate its guidelines in order to compensate for the volume of readers, viewers and listeners it was losing. Print and broadcast media had to change their reporting formulas in order to maintain the audience they had, and, they hoped, retrieve readers, viewers and listeners they had lost and attract new ones.
Because the print medium s audience began to decline before a change in writing style was made, this proves that the flexibility of objectivity was a reaction in response to the trend of the 1970s-80s. The public demanded entertainment. Although it had been the heart of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, objectivity was dropped from the society s code in 1996.
According to the Leveraging Newspaper Assets study that was conducted by the Newspaper Association of America in November 2000, as the percentage of straight objective news stories has decreased since 1977, newspaper believability and accuracy has begun to increase. Respondents who view newspapers as scoring extremely or very well for credibility jumped from 53 percent in 1997 to 58 percent in the new study.
The methods and guidelines that the media use to produce and present news stories progressively change with the attitudes of their readers, viewers, or listeners. Just like any other business, if journalists see that the attitudes or opinions of their customers doesn t agree with their product, they have to make a change or suffer huge loses in the absence of a significant audience. In 1997, straight, objective news stories accounted for only 32 percent of all stories as newspaper circulation began to increase. Newspaper websites have been increasing overall newspaper readership since 1998. According to the current trend, newspaper circulation will continue to rise until another invention modifies the public s attitudes again.
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