Why did radio not kill off newspapers?

New media challenge the old. New technologies have specific features or what have been called "affordances" that do not duplicate previous technologies. By the same token, the older technologies have affordances that the new ones do not reproduce. The new ones do not do just the same as the old, faster or better; they do something like the old but not exactly.

Print journalists certainly feared radio. Some of the more prosperous newspapers handled their anxiety by buying radio stations themselves. But many other newspapers felt radio was unfair competition, especially when wire service news— produced by newspapers—became readily available to radio so that the papers sometimes were scooped by their own stories on radio.

But radio did not have some of the important features people enjoyed with newspapers. You did not need to make an appointment for a certain hour and minute to get news from your newspaper. In the United States, at a time when most major cities had two or more daily newspapers, each newspaper typically had a political affiliation or political leaning, something readers felt comfortable with and that helped them feel connected with the newspaper. The headline style of radio news, in contrast, did not produce a personal identification. Of course, radio offered an immediacy greater than newspapers and the intimacy of the human voice, but newspapers had features that radio could not duplicate—among other things, newspapers printed photographs. You could see in a newspaper but not in radio what Roosevelt looked like, or Hoover, or Hitler.

Perhaps the best insight about the distinctive affordances of the newspaper came from interviews conducted during a long New York newspaper strike in 1945-1946. Researchers asked people during the strike what not having their newspapers meant to them. It turned out that people were pretty vague about what subject matter they missed—stories they wanted to follow in the news that then were suddenly cut off. But they vividly described the sense of loss in their daily routines. Reading the paper was part of a daily ritual, often at a specific time of day. It was a pleasure and a comfort that fit into a pattern of everyday activity and offered a familiarity that radio did not replace.

 
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