Alumnus speaks about media revolution

Pulitzer Prize winner commented on evolution of newspaper readers.

The popular media is facing a revolution.

According to Michael Smith, new technology and a changing world are ushering in a new era when journalists must become computer savvy, an era when every interest of a diverse culture must be satisfied.

Michael Smith, a Pulitzer Prize winning alumnus of the Ball State journalism program, spoke to future journalists during his speech,"The Changing Media Landscape."

According to Smith, this new landscape is being shaped by increasing globalization and new media uses and different demographics.

"The media are in transition," Smith said. "All the media are transforming right now."

The aging baby -boomer generation - people born between World War II and 1964 - and the new majority in Generation Y - people born after 1977 - are the driving factors for this reinvention.

Smith said although the current generation is reading more papers than the previous one, the majority of newspaper readers are from two generations ago. However, middle-aged and elderly readers are not targets of mass advertising. This poses a problem for papers who rely on advertising revenue for their income. Advertisers who are trying to maximize exposure are more likely to find a media which caters to younger consumers.

According to Smith, this new advertising media is the Internet. By next year, 80 percent of American households will be on-line, Smith said. He related his new on-line lifestyle not only challenges newspapers, but local television networks as well.

Many local news shows are being taken off the air, and local papers are including more global features. Smith said this new drive for international knowledge can be attributed to growing diversity in the American culture. Viewers are now looking for global angles, making it difficult for local news shows to compete with cable news networks and instant Internet connection.

"The people who go online for news have a global interest," Smith said.

Smith said the Internet is now being included in the news circuit as a reliable news source. He said most people turned on their televisions first for the breaking news on Sept. 11. They then went to the Internet to gather more in depth news. Finally, they relied upon newspapers to explain what all the information meant.

This new competition does not mark the end of newspapers. New technology "makes the existing technology reinvent itself," Smith said.

Amidst the futuristic realities now controlling the media, Smith said he has confidence that the new generation of journalists will be successful in the new world.

"A new generation of journalists was born on Sept. 11," Smith said.


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