Journalism before the Internet and now

Updated

Twenty years ago, journalism was different. Here are some ways, and feel free to add your own:

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Then: You could do anything short of murdering your city editor and not get fired.

Now: You don’t need to do anything to get fired.

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Then: Deadlines were once a day.

Now: Deadlines are 86,400 times a day

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Then: You got furloughed – time off without pay – when you screwed up.

Now: You get furloughed when the company screws up.

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Then: Most important news ruled.

Now: Most recent news rules.

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Then: You got paid little and got small raises.

Now: You get paid little and get no raises.

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Then: You smoked and put the cigarette out on the linoleum floor..

Now: You don’t smoke and if your neighbor does, he goes outside on the sidewalk.

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Then: Readers were surprised by the news

Now: Readers know the news already from Twitter or Facebook or 24-hour cable news.

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Then: Accuracy was vital and errors were a kick in the stomach.

Now: Accuracy is vital, but dammit, let’s get it out on Twitter!

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Then: Sports agate ruled.

Now: ESPN.com

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Then: Mobile is what newspaper carriers were.

Now: Something newspapers still haven’t quite got right.

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Then: Avoid the city desk by not answering the phone.

Now: Impossible to avoid the city desk’s phone calls, texts, emails, DMs, tweets…

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Then: Competition was that other paper.

Now: Competition is that guy, and that guy, and her, and him over there ….

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Then: Newsrooms were loud and smoky and crowded.

Now: Newsrooms are quiet and not smoky and filled with empty desks.

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Then: A link was something that kept the ends of your cuffs together, and which only journalists with airs wore.

Now: A url that most news websites still haven’t figured out how to embed.

Then: You ignored mail you didn’t like.

Now: You ignore mail you don’t like. And email. And story comments. And tweets.

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Then: Your day started when your sources did.

Now: Your day has already started, regardless of when you wake up.

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Then: Your day ended when the copy desk pressed send.

Now: What copy desk?

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Then: Computers frequently crashed and your stories vanished before your eyes.

Now: Yes.

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Then: Everyone read your story.

Now: Most everyone has heard about your story.

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Then: You decide when to break the story.

Now: The source breaks her story on her blog or FB page or tweet.

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Then: In sports, it was all about who won the game.

Now: It’s not about who won the game. (See ESPN.)

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Then: In politics, it’s all about the horse race.

Now: In politics, it’s all about the horse race.

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Then: Editors never gave you enough time to do quality work.

Now: Editors still don’t give you enough time to do quality work.

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Then: You told photographers what kind of photo you wanted.

Now: Photographers? You shoot your own.

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Then: Journalists can close down a bar.

Now: Journalists can close down a bar.

From the comments:

Then: News was news, advertising was advertising, and never the twain did meet.

Now: Advertorial, or embedded advertising, or whatever the term of the day is, is “a new revenue opportunity” requiring no transparency as to either form or source, readers be damned. (Lex)

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Then: You used a telephone book and a city directory book to look up people’s phone numbers, verify the spelling of their names (never trust the city directory), and get their addresses (also their neighbors’, if it was a crime scene).

Now: Books? (Steve)
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Then: You never went out to cover a story without a reporter’s notebook and a couple of pens in your pocket or purse. And your desk was stuffed with half-used notebooks.

Now: You never go anywhere without your cell phone. And your desk is still filled with half-used notebooks. (Steve)

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Then: You went to the morgue to get background for a story.

Now: Whaddya mean they wiped out the archive when they updated the CMS? (Steve)

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Then: Small town newspapers were family owned.

Now: Hundreds of small town papers are being bought out by the same enormous firm run by questionable lawyers and bankers.

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Then: The daily newspaper was placed in newsrooms for staff to read.

Now: Staff goes to the front counter to buy a newspaper if they want to read it.

11 thoughts on “Journalism before the Internet and now

  1. Then: News was news, advertising was advertising, and never the twain did meet.
    Now: Advertorial, or embedded advertising, or whatever the term of the day is, is “a new revenue opportunity” requiring no transparency as to either form or source, readers be damned.

  2. Then: You used a telephone book and a city directory book to look up people’s phone numbers, verify the spelling of their names (never trust the city directory), and get their addresses (also their neighbors’, if it was a crime scene).
    Now: Books?
    **********
    Then: You never went out to cover a story without a reporter’s notebook and a couple of pens in your pocket or purse. And your desk was stuffed with half-used notebooks.
    Now: You never go anywhere without your cell phone. And your desk is still filled with half-used notebooks.
    **********
    Then: You went to the morgue to get background for a story.
    Now: Whaddya mean they wiped out the archive when they updated the CMS?

  3. Then: The daily newspaper was placed in newsrooms for staff to read.

    Now: Staff goes to the front counter to buy a newspaper if they want to read it.

  4. Then: Small town newspapers were family owned
    Now: Hundreds of small town papers are being bought out by the same enormous firm run by questionable lawyers and bankers

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  6. Then, newspapers were honest brokers of information. Today, newspapers are dying, most TV news is partisan, and online news is a swamp of misinformation and outright lies. It would be difficult to exaggerate how much damage this is doing to the American democracy.

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