"Computers, Ambivalence and the Transformation of Journalistic Work"
John T. Russial
University of Oregon
School of Journalism and Communication
1275 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1275
E-Mail: [log in to unmask]
Paper submitted to the AEJMC Communications Technology and Policy Division,
"Computers, Ambivalence and the Transformation of Journalistic Work"
Newspaper professionals have had a love-hate relationship with computers
for more than two decades. Computers have greatly simplified such
writing and rewriting and have made it quite a bit easier to edit
They have improved news-gathering by placing vast amounts of online
information at journalists' fingertips, enabling reporters to sort
extensive databases and find relationships that once would have taken
months. In these ways, and others, computers have enhanced the
abilities of news gatherers as well as editors. Computers also have turned
some copyeditors into compositors, designers into electronic paste-up
operatives and photographers into digital darkroom technicians.
Computerization has improved overall productivity and efficiency of
newspaper pre-press operations by shifting work once done by production
departments into the newsroom--automating the work of compositors and
blue-collar employees. And as a result, the profession of journalism has
moved toward the craftlike work of production for a significant number
practitioners. This shift is where the deepest roots of ambivalence
newsroom computers are based, in a transformation of intellectual work
does not fit neatly into current theories about information technology and
Ambivalence itself is a problem -- it is an indicator of dissatisfaction
-- and it is reasonable to suspect that ambivalence can lead to high
turnover and brain drain, which have been cited as important issues facing
newspapers. But there are potentially greater concerns. One of the
serious issues in newsroom computerization, for example, is the loss of
newsroom positions to production considerations, even as the percentage
such newsroom positions increases. There is evidence to support
contention, but there is no analytical framework to ground it. Several
studies indicate that paginators spend a substantial amount of their
workday on production tasks, at least 20 percent and probably more. If
enough editors are not hired to make up for this loss of editing time,
redefinition of editing to include electronic makeup represents a
significant loss of newsroom editing positions. Other production-based
systems, such as digital darkrooms, might have a similar impact. But
effects are difficult to pin down because journalists adjust their
behavior. They limit the time they devote to journalism in order to meet
production needs. Consequently, it has been easy to dismiss such
transitory phenomena -- problems that will disappear as systems and
training improve. Likewise, it is easy to marginalize the many concerns
expressed anecdotally by journalists as carping or Luddism.
In the journalism academy, studies of computerization and work remain, on
one hand, a loose collection of indicators of trouble, such as time
constraints, job dissatisfaction, burnout and ambivalence. On
hand, there has been no systematic way to frame the various positive
impacts of information technology, such as the improvements in
newsgathering that result from electronic database access and
assisted reporting software and hardware.
This paper is an attempt to analyze news work and computerization, to
suggest a framework for understanding the impacts and to provide
suggestions for empirical study. It will examine what has been reported
about newsroom computerization in light of debates in fields that have
thoroughly analyzed and discussed issues of technology and work. It will
argue that theoretical approaches outlined in sociology, industrial
relations and management help explain the experience of news professionals
who use advanced information technology. Newsroom experience suggests,
however, that a crucial revision is needed if we are to better
the impacts of computers on newspaper professionals, particularly the
About 20 years ago, newspapers began to introduce information technology
into newsrooms and, in so doing, began to redefine the jobs of
and editors. The process began slowly with optical character
equipment -- the infamous "scanners" -- in the early-to-mid-'70s,
rapidly into VDTs in the mid-to-late-'70s, and somewhat slowly into
pagination in the '80s. In 1984, management scholar Nancy Carter
computers as a "predominate technology" in newspapers. Since then,
computerization of news work has intensified. Today, reporters use
text-editing systems and library systems. Many use spreadsheet and database
software as well as E-Mail and other internet services. Editors, graphic
artists and photographers use all of the above as well as pagination,
online and in-house graphics systems and digital darkroom and archiving
Computers have been hailed as the journalists' powerful new tools, but in
newsrooms, as in many other white-collar workplaces, computers are
more than tools. Because of computerization, many editors are now both
journalist and printer. They spend much of their workday performing
computer-based tasks that one or two decades ago were done by compositors
and other production workers using craft-based technology. Pagination
the most noticeable example. Copyeditors and designers who paginate
significant portion of their time doing on a computer screen what
composing workers did with Xacto knives. A newer technology is the
darkroom, which computerizes many of the tasks photographers
performed in chemical darkrooms, such as "printing," adjusting
cropping, dodging and burning. It also enables journalists to perform
ariety of photo reproduction tasks that they had not performed before,
as scanning, color correction and color separation. Many "back shop" tasks
of composition, makeup and photo reproduction have become the
responsibility of newsroom personnel, and the result is a sharp
if not elimination, of the back shop at many papers.
In the U.S. newspaper industry, information technology has been viewed
anecdotally and largely uncritically for several decades. According to
Anthony Smith, "The United States enjoys an inbuilt national
for new technology, partly fostered by newspapers and journalism."
in newspaper publishing, as in American society on the whole, is to cheer
on computers as the front-line troops in the march of progress. In
for example, Robert Kenagy of IBM Corp. told the Associated Press
Editors Association that "the computer will remove a great deal of the
drudgery that exists in the newsroom today and free all people in the
editorial department to be far more creative." In his 1972 textbook Ink
Paper, printing and graphics expert Edmund Arnold said, "Used
computers can free the editor's mind from details and be a valuable
toward the more creative aspects of editing."
Computers have streamlined pre-press operations, enabling newspapers to
reap substantial savings in labor costs and overall page-production
and they have enriched many newsroom jobs. But along with the praise,
journalists have complained about computers for years, particularly in
certain job categories, and there seems to be growing awareness among
managers that decisions to computerize news production operations have
unintended consequences for journalists. Newspaper consultant David
notes, for example, that "bright and dim spots come with all
systems." At a newspaper industry conference in late 1994, Peter
managing editor of the Portland Oregonian, explained one of the dim
"Most of the people who sit at pagination terminals would not have
chosen to be newsroom compositors. They came into this business
word people, not computer jockeys. So there is resentment by some
a lot more resignation to the task than enthusiasm."
Paul McFarlane, systems editor of the Carroll County (Maryland) Times,
which began paginating in 1993, says the biggest drawback to pagination
that "copyeditors become compositors." He noted that Times copyeditors
themselves "pagination monkeys." Anecdotal comments often indicate
fundamental concerns. What is the source of the ambivalence many
journalists have voiced about technological change? How does it relate to
the transformation of journalistic work? Answering this question
focusing at the level of specific tasks.
Different jobs, different impacts
Though all newsroom jobs have professional content, there are substantial
differences, and the benefits and burdens of computerization fall
differently on different job categories. The following is an inventory of
widely used computer systems in newsrooms and the principal tasks
with these systems. Tasks are categorized as "journalistic," if the
computer-based task has an analogue in traditional news work; "production"
if the analogous task had been done by production departments before
computerization, and "new" if there is no clear pre-computer analogue.
Newsroom computer systems and tasks
Traditional Production New
Text editing systems
Writing stories X
Editing stories X
Writing headlines X
Coding stories for output X
Designing pages on screen X
Assembling page elements for output X
Adjusting and aligning page elements X
Outputting pages X
Scanning images X
Enhancing images: dodging, burning, etc. X
Making color adjustments/corrections X
Making color separations X
Digital photo archiving * *
Scanning art X
Enhancing scanned art--adding, eliminating detail X
Adding text to graphics X
Editing online graphics X
Online libraries and databases
Choosing databases, designing strategies X
Performing searches X
Gathering information X
Computer assisted reporting
Data input/building databases X
Data transfer and reformatting X
Database sorting to find relationships X
Using information in stories X
Exploring internet domains X
Information and data gathering X
Finding sources by E-Mail X
Interviewing by E-Mail X
Repackaging stories as online content * *
Updating stories X
Hypertext and other coding, screen design * *
Summarization, indexing * *
Linking pages X
Interacting with readers (E-Mail, chat X
* Task has characteristics of more than one category
The main difference suggested by the table is between systems used for
news gathering and writing, such as text-editing systems and online
libraries, vs. systems used for news presentation and processing, such as
pagination and digital darkrooms. News-gathering/writing systems are
primarily journalistic in character. They enable journalists to do the
tasks they had done, often better or faster. News presentation and
production systems may enable editors to do some journalistic tasks better
or faster, but they also entail doing additional work -- work that
been done in production departments. Some systems share characteristics
both, such as graphic design systems, and some information
such as online news systems, entail tasks that have no clear
analogue. In terms of jobs, the distinction is roughly between
and editing, though the categories are not exclusive.
The broad impact of newsroom computerization has been to redefine all of
the tasks indicated in the table as journalism. For example,
now do electronic makeup, therefore electronic makeup must be
Editors seeking copydesk jobs can expect to be asked to do electronic
makeup, and journalism schools are expected to teach it. Making color
separations is becoming a journalist's task, therefore, it too must be
journalism. But redefinition does not change the nature of those tasks.
there a level at which such tasks conflict with more fundamental ideas
what constitutes journalistic work? If so, is this a likely source of
ambivalence? In an era of technological intensification and convergence,
many tasks will be "new" ones. What impact will these tasks have on
Academic researchers have looked at the impact of computers on news
professionals in general terms. Weaver and Wilhoit reported from their
1982-83 survey of American journalists that "perceived effects of new
technologies are not clearly positive or clearly negative for a
proportion of journalists ... for most journalists the perceived benefits
of new technology greatly outweigh the perceived liabilities." They
however, that editors, particularly copyeditors, were the most
about the impact of technology. Burgoon, Burgoon and Atkin came to
similar conclusion. Lindley reported that copyeditors whose careers
hot type and VDT systems felt that complexity of coding and production
concerns had increased but so had their control over the product.
studies, and a variety of others that focused on such issues as the
of VDTs on error rates and perceived autonomy preceded
implementation of news presentation and production technologies such as
pagination and digital imaging.
Studies done in the last several years suggest greater impact on specific
job categories and increasing ambivalence. Russial reported that
has given editors increased flexibility and control over the page makeup
process but that it entails a production burden that can take time
from editing and can lead to greater task specialization.
Underwood et. al.
identify a "displacement effect" of pagination, which refers to the shift
of production tasks into newsrooms and the consequent reduction in
attention editors can pay to traditional editing. Researchers have begun
examine issues at the level of work and organization in newspapers but one
must look outside the journalism and communications literature for broader
theoretical perspectives on technological change and work.
Perspectives from other fields
Debate about computerization, work and organization has been robust in
several fields -- sociology, industrial relations and management. These
wide-ranging perspectives can be schematized several ways. One
to look at the impact of computerization at the "human interface" --
point where tasks, skills and technology intersect.
Some scholars, such as Braverman and Shaiken, argue that computerization
degrades jobs through deskilling. Some, such as Bell and Piore and
argue that computerization tends to enrich jobs because it increases
skill content ("upskilling"); Some, such as McLoughlin and Clark
Zuboff, are more equivocal, and perhaps their views are more suited to
complexity of factors that influence work and technology. They say
computerization can either enrich or degrade jobs depending on how jobs
designed and how workers and managers negotiate the use of computers.
Newspaper computerization suggests yet another possibility:
can enrich some jobs through upskilling, degrade others through
deskilling, and somewhat paradoxically, upskill and degrade still other
jobs at the same time and by the same mechanisms.
Labor process theory and deskilling
A good starting point to examine the issue of new technology and skills is
Braverman, a neo-Marxist whose Labor and Monopoly Capital set off a
lengthy debate about skills and deskilling. Braverman, and later advocates
of the labor process approach, argued that there is a deepening divide
between mental and manual labor and that the routinization and
simplification of many highly skilled blue-collar jobs was not a
of new technology but the reason for its introduction. According to
Braverman, capitalist owners and managers strive to deskill workers by
separating the conception of work from its execution in order to control
the workforce. A well-studied example is the impact of numerical
which transferred the skill of machinists into computer programs.
numerical control processes were implemented, machinists planned and
executed metalworking jobs. With numerical control, the conceptual
function--the planning of the machine setup -- was shifted to engineers or
computer technicians. Machinists became machine tenders--watching
execute the jobs planned by others.
Braverman argues that deskilling is also the logic of technological change
in white-collar work, and others have examined white-collar occupations,
such as computer programming, social work and engineering, in
Braverman has been sharply criticized for oversimplifying the concept of
skills and for overstating the role of deskilling as a conscious
strategy. Labor process theory does, however, capture the fundamental
impact of information technology on certain occupations. In printing,
example, linotype operators and compositors were deskilled; they lost
craft-based skills, and their control of the work, as computer typesetting
replaced hot metal composition.
Labor process theory, which is grounded in the separation of conception
and execution of tasks, offers little help in understanding the impact
computerization on journalists. From the newsroom perspective, the
computerization of production tasks was a strategic reintegration of
conception and execution. It represented a return to the era of the
"printer-journalist," and it was done to reduce costs and increase
News production systems such as pagination and digital darkrooms represent
further steps in which conception and production (execution) have been
Flexible specialization and upskilling
Flexible specialization entails a more optimistic view of technology than
Braverman's and a much rosier view of the relationship between new
technology and skills. This perspective, associated with Michael Piore's
and Charles Sabel's 1984 book, The Second Industrial Divide, holds
rapidly changing product market conditions require a flexible core
market--one that can quickly adapt to meet whatever challenges arise.
a strategy of permanent innovation based on flexible multi-use equipment
and multi-skilled workers, and it represents, in effect, a revival of
craft form of production. According to Piore and Sabel, the
computer is "an
instrument that responds to and extends the productive capacities of the
user. Rather than degradation of work through deskilling -- the
predicted by the labor process school -- flexible specialization is
enriching work by increasing worker skills, or "upskilling."
Such a return to a craftlike organization of work has been hailed by some
as the path to competitiveness. Critics, however, argue that flexible
specialization fails to address the possibility that information
can be used to substitute technology for human labor" or automate, as
Zuboff uses the term. A second criticism is that flexible specialization
may not result in upskilling, and that upskilling of jobs in the core
market "may be associated with a deskilling of others" in the periphery.
Like Braverman, Piore and Sabel are talking primarily of production
contexts. In theory, flexible specialization may be a useful way to
approach information technology in newsroom contexts. Given the plethora of
different computer systems in newsrooms, the development of multi-skilled
workers would seem to offer greater flexibility in news gathering as
as news presentation and processing.
In many newsrooms, elements of the core labor market -- copyeditors and
page designers -- were retrained to handle pagination systems, and
photographers were retrained to handle digital image processing. In some
cases, the "core" labor market of journalists has been fragmented into
professional editors and skilled operatives, who may be called "design
assistants," "paginators," or even "Chief Quarkers." The trend,
has been toward inflexibility, not flexibility. One study of 12
found an increasing task specialization in paginating newsrooms, an
related to the cost of systems and the need to develop special expertise
to use the systems efficiently.
In effect, many professionals have become pagination production
specialists. A similar outcome is possible with digital darkroom systems,
as photographers and copyeditors become digital imaging specialists.
level, this may appear to be an "upskilling," but on another it is a
degradation of professional work. Even though editors learn new skills,
they have less time for their traditional journalistic tasks because
need to perform electronic production tasks. This outcome echoes
newsroom's earlier experience with VDTs, when editors were required to
on a greater bundle of tasks -- primarily composition coding and
proofreading -- previously done by compositors. The technology may extend
journalists' production abilities, but it also compromises their
Automating and informating
Another influential view of computers and work is that of Shoshana Zuboff,
who argues that information technology can be used to either automate or
"informate." Automating is the replacement of skills by machinery
(deskilling). Informating refers to the erosion of the requirement for
workers to execute tasks based on action-centered skills and an increase
the need for them to use mental, or "intellective," skills such as
understanding and judging information. This change is construed as
positive; it represents an upskilling and an enrichment. Computers are the
key -- they make it possible to shift the work process from
behavior, such as looking at the level of fluid in a wood pulp vat, to
more abstract skills, such as judging the progress of a pulp-making
by reading numbers on a computer screen.
According to Zuboff, technology must be understood in its social context.
The transformation of work she identifies may result in
distress" among workers used to action-oriented behavior, whether
blue-collar or white-collar. It may also result in attempts by managers or
experts to retain control. The point, Zuboff argues, is that this
problematic for both workers and managers because it tends to dissolve
Zuboff's approach may be a fruitful way to look at the impact of
news-gathering systems. The integration of database and library systems
and, perhaps, internet applications, into the professional context of
newsroom work may reflect what Zuboff calls the informating capabilities
new technology. Computer Assisted Reporting and Research (CARR) is a good
example. CARR hardware and software enable reporters to interact with
bases, manipulate data and determine relationships between, say, motor
vehicle driving records and school bus accidents. They provide reporters
window on and a tool to manipulate large masses of information, and
are a significant source of background information, evidence and story
ideas. These computer-based systems open new horizons to reporters and
so doing enhance professional skills.
Another example of a technology with informating potential is the online
news library. Hansen and Ward report evidence that reporter and
roles are converging in newspapers, an outcome that Smith
than a decade and a half ago when he noted that "a kind of historical
collusion is developing between journalism and librarianship." News
librarians once were considered low-status filers and retrievers of news
clips. They have developed valuable skills in shaping and performing
database searches and now are becoming part of reporting teams.
A third example is graphic design systems, which have enabled editorial
artists to create and edit informational graphics as easily as others
text. Before computerization, graphic artists had relatively low
the newsroom. According to Roger Fidler, who founded the Knight-Ridder
Graphics network, the new generation of graphic artists "tend to be
actively involved with reporters and editors and take great pride in their
ability to inform readers through graphics."
The integration of pre-press production systems, such as pagination and
perhaps digital darkrooms, into newsrooms represents a different
Such computer systems may have informating elements. Pagination may,
example, give a copyeditor or page designer a wide range of feedback
the pre-press production process as a whole by providing tracking
information about the status of stories, ads and photos destined for a page
or section. This requires the development of new skills and new strategies
for interacting with data. But from the point of view of editors, the
impact is neither fundamentally automating nor informating.
Zuboff says the informating capability of "the smart machine" tends to
eliminate the distinction between white and blue collar work. The
runs through her perspective is that integrating the mental and manual
dimensions of work would necessarily be a positive outcome of
change. The experience in newsrooms suggests that the outcome may be
positive, negative or mixed, depending on whose job has changed and how.
News production systems do, in effect, dissolve the distinction
white and blue collar, but they dissolve it by eliminating one category
News production systems have an automating effect from the perspective of
production departments. But they are not predominantly informating
perspective of the newsroom. Rather than undermine the boundaries of
managerial authority, which is the outcome Zuboff suggests, they
the boundaries of professional discretion. Editors are adversely
by the same process that deskills production workers, and this is not
positive outcome for either group.
Zuboff's dual constructs--automating and informating--are useful in
explaining the experience of nonprofessional workers in the face of
information technology. They provide insights into the impact on some
classes of white-collar/managerial workers. And they might offer a
blueprint for change in the nature of such work. But they fail to capture a
substantial impact of information technology on professional workers in
newspaper newsrooms. Studies of information technology and work have
more thoroughly at change from the perspective of the manual or craft
worker, not as thoroughly from the perspective of the intellectual
Some scholars have examined professional occupations and technological
change. In the literature, there are two main approaches to explaining
decrease in the professional characteristics of an occupation --
deprofessionalization (the white-collar analogue of deskilling) and
proletarianization. Technology can deprofessionalize if it makes a
profession's specialized knowledge available to nonprofessionals. The
profession might lose its monopoly of specialized knowledge or its
to restrict the application of that knowledge to accredited members.
Several researchers report that computer aided design (CAD) systems have
this effect -- they enable technicians to take on design
that had been closely held by engineers. Others, however, argue that
systems can upskill design work for engineers as well. A better
might be computer programs that make professional knowledge available
nonprofessionals, such as expert systems or write-your-own-will
Proletarianization, a Marxist concept, looks at the loss of
professionalism in terms of relations of production. The principal
indicator would be the degree of a profession's shift from the category of
self-employed to employed and the concomitant loss of autonomy. One
might be the loss of autonomy and the increase in oversight that accompany
the integration of physicians and physician groups into health care
systems as employees. Computers are used to calculate professional
"productivity," and compensation can be adjusted accordingly.
Proletarianization is of little help in understanding technology and news
work -- most newspaper journalists are employees.
a more appropriate concept. The impact of news production systems does
appear to deprofessionalize editors, but in a rather unusual way.
technology such as pagination is implemented, editors retain their
professional knowledge (their editing skills) as well as their monopoly in
its application. What they lose is much of their discretion in
in the face of production imperatives.
The experience of journalists with news production systems suggests a need
for another way to explain the impact of information technology on work. A
category of impact is needed that is not captured by the idea of
deskilling, that is neither automating nor informating, that is not
deprofessionalizing through loss of exclusivity. It would explain an
outcome in which professional work becomes more specialized yet less
flexible. Professional work is degraded through the addition of skills,
through reintegration of conception and execution, through the
of production tasks as journalism.
Job "enlargement," a concept taken from industrial relations and the
sociology of work, is perhaps the closest fit. On the assembly line, the
classic case of enlargement is a speedup -- an assembly line worker is
required to perform four tasks rather than three in a given amount of
The result often is diminished quality, because workers cannot pay as much
attention to each task. Perhaps the concept can be stretched a bit.
Traditional job enlargement for an editor might mean having to edit 20
stories instead of 15 in a shift. The shift of production work into the
newsroom adds tasks of a different order. They are not as intellectual
traditional editing tasks -- yet they often must take priority if
paper is to be published. Editors retain their exclusive control
intellectual tasks that editing encompasses, but they lose discretion
the emphasis they can place on those tasks. Another analytical
needed to explain this phenomenon, perhaps "technological enlargement"
This is more than an academic exercise. Computers have contributed to the
redefinition of journalism, but this transformation has happened
the backs" of journalists. It has occurred through thousands of small
decisions about who is supposed to do what with which computer system in
hundreds of newsrooms. And it is likely to continue as the scope of
computerization continues to expand in daily newspaper newsrooms.
Newspapers have avidly pursued such information technologies as audiotext,
online newspapers and the internet in the last few years. Other computer
technologies may find their way into newsrooms as well. A few
executives, for example, are suggesting that newsrooms use database
marketing systems to generate story ideas and provide readers with targeted
reports. Will database marketing, a tool typically used by advertising and
marketing departments, become journalism? Another innovation, online
interactivity, is already being redefined as journalism, as a glance at
recent trade journal issue will indicate. Little is known about how such
innovations will affect journalists. If, for example, online newspaper
subscribers expect to have speedy interactive access to reporters and
editors, will journalists have to limit the time they spend on reporting
and editing to respond to readers? Will interactivity provide
with new sources of information and expose them to perspectives they
not have considered?
Regardless how information technology tasks are defined, it is fair to ask
what they have to do with journalism. Do they enhance journalistic
practice or detract from it? Many of the tasks that journalists might be
asked to perform with new computer systems do not have analogues in
the pre-computer newsroom or in production departments. An important
question for journalists and journalism educators is whether these new
tasks will have an informating impact or whether they will result in
technological enlargement, as news production systems have done.
In order to ask such questions and to understand and to be able to
critically examine the implementation of information technology,
communications scholars need a way to explain what is happening at the
level of skill and task--the human interface. A useful conceptual frame
must take into account the idea that computer technologies can have
different impacts on different classes of professionals within the
white collar organization. Computerization isn't just about computers.
about what specific computer systems are designed to do and how they are
The wrong question is the general one: "What impact has computerization
had on news professionals?" A better question is richer with
"Has a given type of computer system enhanced a journalist's
and creative skills? Or has it limited the journalist's discretion in
applying those skills?" One provisional answer, based on framing the
question this way, is that computers primarily enhance news gathering,
while computers both enhance and degrade news editing. The greater the
degradation, which can be seen in limitations on discretion, the greater
the ambivalence, and, perhaps, the greater the impact on quality of
and quality of work life?
Suggestions for research
What are the implications for journalism research?
One suggestion is to locate technology studies at the level of work --
what it is professionals do all day and how their workday changes after
information technology is implemented. Important considerations are
inventories and analysis of tasks, and more important, an analysis of time
spent on tasks, the nature of those tasks, and changes in professional
discretion in choosing which tasks to concentrate upon. In addition,
technological change should be examined in terms of indicators, such as
time, job satisfaction, burnout, retention, and, ultimately,
Technology also should be examined at the level of organizational change.
Does information technology improve or hinder efforts to make such
A more specific question is whether there is a correlation between the
implementation of a computer system and newsroom task specialization. A
working hypotheses might be that the introduction of news production
systems will correlate positively with newsroom task specialization,
because of the need for specialized expertise, and that the introduction
news-gathering systems will not. A related question is, What are the
relationships between information technology and various approaches to
newsroom "re-engineering," such as topic teams, newsroom circles,
desks and design desks? Ryan says, for example, that display desks
"wordsmiths, visual specialists and people proficient with computers"
that by working together, these specialists would learn one another's
skills. "Before long," he says, "each display editor would be expected to
know how to do every job." If news production technology leads to
task specialization, this outcome may be unlikely.
Have newsrooms been reorganized to solve production problems or to improve
journalistic quality? If the technology's informating potential is
exploited in re-engineering, the result should be an increase in employee
satisfaction and better quality. If the mode of introduction is
technological enlargement, the opposite should be evident.
Communications research, which has examined technological issues at the
levels of audience effects and culture, has invested little time on
of technology at the level of work. The absence of a conceptual framework,
or even the rudiments of one, has meant that there is no road map for
research into a major industry trend and its often-unintended
-- the transformation of journalistic work. Consequently there is
basis for offering guidance and criticism to an industry pursuing
and greater computerization.
 David Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit, The American Journalist, 1986
(Bloomington: University of Indiana Press). Also Wilhoit and
Journalists at Work, 1971-1992," paper present
ed to the AEJMC Media
Management and Economics Division, Atla
nta, August 1994.
 The percentage of daily newspaper journalists iden
tified as supervisors and
copyeditors has slowly increased
at the expense of journalists identified as reporters.
increase continued even after the number of daily newspaper journalists pe
1990. Supervisors and copyeditors have substantial
production responsibilities. Cornelius
F. Foote Jr., "Minor
ity, Total Newsroom Employment Shows Slow Growth, 1994 Survey Says,"
ASNE Bulletin, April/May 1994, p. 20-22.
 John Russial, "Pagin
ation and the Newsroom: A Question of Time," Newspaper
ch Journal, 1994, 91-101; Doug Underwood, C. Anthony Giffard and
Keith Stamm, "Computers and Editing: The Displacement Effect of Paginat
Systems in the Newsroom," Newspaper Research Journal, Spr
ing 1994, 116-127.
 The relative percentage of copyeditors and supervi
sory editors has
increased slightly in the last several years
as the total daily newspaper
editorial workforce has decline
d, according to surveys reported in the ASNE
Bulletin May/June 1993 and A
pril 1994. It is unclear how much of the
relative increase in
editors represents positions created to offset the
pagination, but it is unlikely that the increase is enough to
offset a 20 percent reduction in editing staff positions. The effective
loss of editing staff positions due to pagination's impact cou
ld be greater
than the number of editing jobs lost through cutbacks durin
g the last
 In a preliminary study of newsroo
ms and digital darkrooms, I observed photographers
o editors at 10 newspapers performing many tasks that had been done by prod
workers before the introduction of AP Leaf systems a
nd Adobe Photoshop into newsrooms.
 John Russial, "Pagination and the
Newsroom: A Question of Time."
 John M. Shipman Jr., "Computerization
and Job Satisfaction in the Newsroom: Four
Factors to Consi
der," Newspaper Research Journal, Fall 1986, 69-80.
 Betsy B. Cook, St
eve R. Banks and Ralph J. Turner report that copyeditors have
significantly higher levels of emotional exhaustion than reporters and t
who have multiple role assignments -- copye
diting, layout and design -- have the lowest
levels of pers
onal accomplishment, making that type of position a high-risk job for
burnout. The authors did not correlate the use of computer techn
ology with multiple role
assignments, but it is likely that
many copyeditors in that category use news production
ems such as pagination. "The Effects of Work Environment on Burnout in the
Newspaper Research Journal, 14, 3&4, Summer and Fa
ll 1993, p. 123-134.
 Underwood, Giffard and Stamm, "Computers and Edi
 Jean Ward and Kathleen A. Hansen, "Journalist and Librarian R
Technologies and Newsmaking," Journalism
Quarterly 68 (Fall 1991) 491-498;
Hansen et al., "Local Break
ing News: Sources, Technology and News Routines,
Journalism Quarterly 71
(Autumn 1994) 561-572.
 Elliot Jaspin, "The New Investigative Journal
ism: Exploring Public Records by
Computer," in John V. Pavl
ik and Everette E. Dennis eds., Demystifying Media
, (London: Mayfield) 1993, 142-49.
 John Russial, "Pagination and the
Newsroom: Great Expectations," dissertation,
 Nancy M. Carter, "Computerization as a Predominate Techn
ology: Its Influence on the
Structure of Newspaper Organiza
tions," Academy of Management Journal, June 1984,
 Russial, "Pagination and the Newsroom: A Question of Time"; Underw
ood, Giffard and
Stamm, "The Displacement Effect."
rne L. Kalleberg et. al, "The Eclipse of Craft: The Changing face of Labor
Newspaper Industry," in Daniel B. Cornfield, Workers
, Managers and Technological
Change, 1987, (New York: Plenum)
. Recent trade journal reports make the
same point. See, for
example, David M. Cole, "Pagination, Page by Page,"
, February 1995, p. 29; Anna America, "The Power of Pagination,"
presstime, April 1994, p. 44-47; Julius Duscha, "The Alameda Model,"
presstime, April 1994, p. 48-50.
 Anthony Smith, Goodbye
Gutenberg: The Newspaper Revolution of the 1980s,
Oxford), 1980, p. 132.
 James W. Carey and John J. Quirk, "The Mythos
of the Electronic Revolution," in
Carey, Communication as
Culture: Essays on Media and Society, (Boston: Unwin
 "Automation," The APME Red Book 1964, The Associated Press, 22,
p. 50; Edmund
Arnold, 1972, Ink on Paper, (New York: Harpe
r & Row), p. 74.
 Cole, "Pagination, Page by Page."
 M.L. Stein
, "Joys and Sorrows of Pagination," Editor & Publisher, Dec. 24,
1994, p. 24.
 Cole, "Pagination, Page by Page."
 Robert McC
lain, the head of a training firm that specializes in Macintosh
applications for newspapers, says, "In most cases, today's graduates a
re far from ready to
step into a paginated or partially paginated newspap
er." McClain says writing, editing
and design skills should
be taught first, but he argues that computer page design
echnology "has become a tool of the trade and should be better taught by ou
r colleges and
universities." Robert McClain, "Journalism Education Shoul
d Include More Computer Trai
ning," Newspapers & Technology,
January 1994, p. 21. Paul Lester of California State
ersity, Fullerton, argues that journalism schools have to link technologica
with a philosophy of education. Paul Lester, "Te
chnical Convergence Equals Professional
and Academic Conver
gence," Viewpoints, The Official Newsletter of the Visual
ommunications Division of AEJMC, Fall 1993, p. 8.
See also John Russial, "
Beyond the Basics: Mixed Messages About Pagination and Other
Skills," Newspaper Research Journal, forthcoming.
 Weaver and Wilho
it, The American Journalist, p. 154-157.
 Judee K. Burgoon, Michael B
urgoon and Charles K. Atkin, "The World of the Working
nalist," (New York: Newspaper Advertising Bureau) 1982.
 William R.
Lindley, "From Hot Type to Video Screens: Editors Evaluate New
Technology," Journalism Quarterly 65(2) Summer 1988, p. 485-89.
See, for example, Larry D. Kurtz, "The Electronic Editor," Journal of
Communication, 30, (Summer 1980, 54-57); Linda J. Shipley and Jame
Gentry, "How Electronic Editing Equipment Affects Editin
Journalism Quarterly, (Autumn 1981 371-74,378)
; Starr D. Randall, "Effect
of Electronic Editing on Error Ra
te of Newspapers," Journalism Quarterly,
(Spring 1979 161-165
); Gerald F. Stone, 1987, Examining Newspapers,
: Sage), p. 58-59.
 Shipman, in a review of literature on newsroom co
mputerization and job satisfaction,
points out that "computers can be use
d for greater control of workers and a lessening of
y, or they can help achieve greater decentralization and freedom in the wor
Shipman, "Computerization and Job Satisfaction in the Newsroom."
 Russial, "Pagination and the Newsroom: A Question of Time"
ohn Russial, "Pagination and Newsroom Organization," paper presented to the
Communications Technology and Policy and Newspaper D
ivisions, Atlanta, Ga., Aug. 13, 1995.
Carter noted an increase in specia
lization in newsrooms after VDTs were introduced.
Computerization as a Predominate Technology."
 Underwood, Giffard & S
tamm, "Computers and Editing."
 Ward and Hansen, "Journalist and Libr
arian Roles"; Russial, "Pagination and Newsroom
Giffard and Stamm, "Computers and Editing"; Eric
"Pagination: Avoiding Frustration in the Newsroom," 87-95 in
Pavlik and Dennis, Demystifying Media Technology; Roger F. Fidler,
"Computer Graphics and the News," 96-98, in Pavlik and Dennis.
Two approaches are detailed in Beverly H. Burris, Technocracy at Work,
(Albany: State University of New York), 1993, and Ian McLoughlin
Clark, Technological Change at Work, 2nd edition, (B
 See Harry Braverman
, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work
Twentieth Century, (New York: Monthly Review Press) 1974; Harley
Shaiken, Work Transformed: Automation and Labor in the Computer Age, (N
York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston), 1984.
Daniel Bell, computer scientist Herbert Simon and other information
society, theorists argue that advanced technology benefits workers
unskilled, tedious jobs and providing in th
eir place jobs that offer greater variation and
greater opportunity for m
eaningful work. See Daniel Bell, 1973, The Coming of
ustrial Society, (New York: Basic); Herbert A. Simon, 1979, "What
Computers Mean for Man and Society" in John Burke and Marshall Eakin,
Technology and Change, (San Francisco: Boyd & Fraser), 68-76.
specialization theorists adopt a similar view of te
chnology and skill. See
Michael Piore and Charles Sabel, The
Second Industrial Divide, (New York:
ughlin and Clark, Technological Change at Work; Shoshana Zuboff, In
the Age of the Smart Machine, (New York: Basic) 1988. A related appr
sociotechnical systems, is summarized in Jon Harrington
Structure and Information Technology, (New Y
ork: Prentice-Hall), 1991, p.
 Russial, "Paginat
ion and the Newsroom: Great Expectations."
 Braverman, Labor and Mono
 See, for example, Shaiken, Work Transformed: Automatio
n and Labor in the
 Philip Kraft, "The In
dustrialization of Computer Programming," in Andrew Zimbalist,
Case Studies on the Labor Process, (New York: Monthly Review) 1979.
See, for example, Charles Derber, ed., Professionals as Workers, 1982,
(Boston: G.K. Hall).
 Skills may, for example, have as mu
ch to do with politics and control of work as
they do with
craftlike competencies. See, for example, Stephen Wood, ed., The
Degradation of Work? Skill, Deskilling and the Labor Process (London:
Hutchinson) 1982; Wood, ed., The Transformation of Work, 1989,
Unwin Hyman); and Peter J. Senker, "Automation and
Work in Britain,"
89-110, in Paul S. Adler, ed., Technology a
nd the Future of Work, (Oxford
University: Oxford) 1992.
] Arne L. Kalleberg et al., "The Eclipse of Craft: The Changing Face of La
bor in the
Newspaper Industry," 47-71 in Daniel B. Cornfiel
d, ed., Workers, Managers and
Technological Change, New York:
Plenum) 1987; Cynthia Cockburn, Brothers:
Male Dominance and
Technological Change, (London: Pluto) 1983.
 Marion Dearman and John
Howells, "Computer Technology and the Return of the
r-Journalist," Journalism History, Winter 1975, 133-136.
and Clark, p. 48.
 Cited in Burris, Technocracy at Work.
rized in McLoughlin and Clark, p. 52-53 and 69.
 Stein, "The Joys and
Sorrows of Pagination," p. 24. The reference is to an
h major hired by a Washington state newspaper on the basis of his
ability to handle Quark Xpress, the most widely used desktop publishin
software in newspapers.
 Russial, "Pagination and New
 Leland Ryan, "Goodbye Copy Desk, Hello, Display
Desk," ASNE Bulletin, April
1991; Jane Harrigan, "Why Do So
Many Editors Have Such Bad Attitudes?"
Quill, March 1993; Rus
sial, "Pagination and Newsroom Organization."
 Russial, "Pagination a
nd the Newsroom: A Question of Time;" Underwood, Giffard and
Stamm, "Computers and Editing."
 William S. Solomon, "Technological
Change in the Workplace: The Impact of Video
nals on Newspaper Copy Desk Work, dissertation, University of California,
Berkeley, 1985. Nancy Carter and John B. Cullen noted an inc
rease in task specialization
in newsrooms with increasing c
omputerization, The Computerization of Newspaper
s, (Lanham: University Press of America) 1983.
 Zuboff, cited in Burr
is, p. 149.
 Zuboff's perspective is consistent with the sociotechnic
al systems approach. See
Burris, Technocracy at Work.
Inputting data into a database can be a time-consuming task, but once it
the data can be used and reused.
 Ward and H
ansen, "Journalist and Librarian Roles."
 Smith, Goodbye Gutenberg, p
 Fidler, "Computer Graphics and the News," p. 96.
f, In the Age of the Smart Machine, p. 393.
 Senker, "Automation and
Work in Britain."
 Eliot Freidson, Professionalism Reborn, (Chicago:
University of Chicago)
1994, p. 131. Zuboff cites an example
of information technology providing
corporate headquarters wi
th up-to-date data on production at various
plants, thereby g
iving corporate executives a way to track the performance
plant managers. Zuboff, In the Age of the Smart Machine.
 Whether new
spaper reporters and editors are professionals is a complex question.
Under federal labor laws, an employee is a professional if his o
r her work requires
advanced knowledge or specialized instr
uction in a field, or if it requires creativity, or
y and the exercise of discretion, and if it is predominately intellectual a
varied in character. The federal government considers jo
urnalism as a quasi-profession:
"Obviously the majority of
reporters do work which depends primarily on intelligence,
diligence and accuracy. It is the minority whose work depends primarily on
imagination and talent." Labor Relations Reporte
r, Wage and Hour Manual, Bureau of
National Affairs Inc. Bi
nder 6-A, p. 660.
Johnstone et al., in their study of American journalist
s, conclude that journalism is a
profession in most of the
senses in which the term is commonly used: "[I]t is clearly a
full-time occupation; there are established training facilities for its
several professional associations for workin
g news people are in existence (though
patronage of them is
rather low); there is legal sanction, of a kind, for its work
territory; and formal codes of ethics have been developed." John W.C. J
ohnstone et. al,
1976, The News People, (Urbana: University
of Illinois), p. 102.
 Russial, "Pagination and the Newsroom: A Ques
tion of Time."
 News production systems, it can be argued, have shift
ed professional work toward the
manual dimension. There is a great deal o
f physical manipulation of a mouse and keyboard
pagination and digital darkroom work. This is certainly the view from the
perspective of paginators who develop repetitive stress inj
 Russial, "Pagination and the Newsroom: A Question of Time."
 Jim Rosenberg, "Targeting Marketing with Insight: Applying Artificial
to Database Marketing," Editor & Publisher, J
une 19, 1993, 34, 59; Larry
Sackett, "Marketing Departments A
re Great News Sources," Editorially
Speaking, Gannett Co. new
 Ryan, "Goodvye Copy Desk, Hello Display Desk," p. 10.