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Subject: AEJ 95 RussialJ CTP Computers and transformation of journalism
From: Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 28 Jan 1996 19:49:16 EST

text/plain (1763 lines)

"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]
Phone: 503-346-3750
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
tasks as
          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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] Other production-based
        systems, such as digital darkrooms, might have a similar impact.[5] 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
effects as
 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,[6] job dissatisfaction[7], burnout[8] and ambivalence.[9] On
the other
         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[10] and
        assisted reporting software and hardware.[11]
        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
       problematic impacts.
        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[12] in the '80s. In 1984, management scholar Nancy Carter
 computers as a "predominate technology" in newspapers.[13] 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
spend a
 significant portion of their time doing on a computer screen what
    composing workers did with Xacto knives.[14] 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
a v
          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.[15]
        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."[16]
The bias
 in newspaper publishing, as in American society on the whole,[17] 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."[18]
        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."[19] 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
to be
               word people, not computer jockeys. So there is resentment by some
               a lot more resignation to the task than enthusiasm."[20]
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."[21] 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
Digital darkrooms
        Scanning images                                                 X
        Enhancing images: dodging, burning, etc.                        X
        Making color adjustments/corrections                                    X
        Making color separations                                                X
        Digital photo archiving                                 *               *
Graphics systems
        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
Internet services
        Exploring internet domains                                                              X
        Information and data gathering                          X
        Finding sources by E-Mail                                                               X
        Interviewing by E-Mail                                  X
Online editions
        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.[22] 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
     journalistic work?
Communications research
        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.[23] Burgoon, Burgoon and Atkin came to
      similar conclusion[24]. 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.[25]
         studies, and a variety of others that focused on such issues as the
          of VDTs on error rates[26] and perceived autonomy[27] 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[28] and can lead to greater task specialization.[29]
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.[30] Researchers have begun
 examine issues at the level of work and organization in newspapers[31] 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[32]. One
approach is
          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.[33] Some, such as Bell and Piore and
          argue that computerization tends to enrich jobs because it increases
          skill content ("upskilling");[34]  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.[35]
        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.[36]
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[37] 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.[38]
          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,[39] social work and engineering,[40] in
his terms.
        Braverman has been sharply criticized for oversimplifying the concept of
          skills and for overstating the role of deskilling as a conscious
 strategy.[41] 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.[42]
        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,"[43] 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.
It is
 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.[44] According to Piore and Sabel, the
computer is "an
 instrument that responds to and extends the productive capacities of the
          user.[45] Rather than degradation of work through deskilling -- the
         predicted by the labor process school -- flexible specialization is
seen as
 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.[46]
        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."[47] 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.[48]
        In effect, many professionals have become pagination production
  specialists.[49] A similar outcome is possible with digital darkroom systems,
          as photographers and copyeditors become digital imaging specialists.
On one
 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.[50] 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.[51] The technology may extend
          journalists' production abilities, but it also compromises their
  journalistic abilities.
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.[52] 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.[53]
          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
shift is
          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.[54]
        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,[55] an outcome that Smith
predicted more
          than a decade and a half ago when he noted that "a kind of historical
       collusion is developing between journalism and librarianship."[56] 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
status in
          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."[57]
        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.[58] The
bias that
 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
from the
 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.[59] 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.[60]
        Proletarianization is of little help in understanding technology and news
          work -- most newspaper journalists are employees.
Deprofessionalization is
          a more appropriate concept. The impact of news production systems does
        appear to deprofessionalize editors,[61] but in a rather unusual way.
After a
          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
applying it
          in the face of production imperatives.[62]
Technological enlargement
        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[63] --  yet they often must take priority if
        paper is to be published.[64] Editors retain their exclusive control
over the
          intellectual tasks that editing encompasses, but they lose discretion
          the emphasis they can place on those tasks. Another analytical
category is
          needed to explain this phenomenon, perhaps "technological enlargement"
          professional work.
        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.
New tasks
        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.[65] 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."[66] 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.
 [1]  David Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit, The American Journalist, 1986
   (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press). Also Wilhoit and
 Weaver, "U.S.
          Journalists at Work, 1971-1992," paper present
ed to the AEJMC Media
     Management and Economics Division, Atla
nta, August 1994.
[2]  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
aked in
           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.
[3]  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.
[4]  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
         impact of
 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
[5]  In a preliminary study of newsroo
ms and digital darkrooms, I observed photographers
            and phot
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.
[6]  John Russial, "Pagination and the
Newsroom: A Question of Time."
[7]  John M. Shipman Jr., "Computerization
and Job Satisfaction in the Newsroom: Four
          Factors to Consi
der," Newspaper Research Journal, Fall 1986, 69-80.
[8]  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
hat copyeditors
            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.
[9]  Underwood, Giffard and Stamm, "Computers and Edi
[10]  Jean Ward and Kathleen A. Hansen, "Journalist and Librarian R
oles, Information
         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.
[11]  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.
[12]  John Russial, "Pagination and the
 Newsroom: Great Expectations," dissertation,
         Temple Univer
sity, 1989.
[13]  Nancy M. Carter, "Computerization as a Predominate Techn
ology: Its Influence on the
            Structure of Newspaper Organiza
tions," Academy of Management Journal, June 1984,
          p. 251-268.
[14]  Russial, "Pagination and the Newsroom: A Question of Time"; Underw
ood, Giffard and
            Stamm, "The Displacement Effect."
[15]  A
rne L. Kalleberg et. al, "The Eclipse of Craft: The Changing face of Labor
in the
            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.
[16]  Anthony Smith, Goodbye
Gutenberg: The Newspaper Revolution of the 1980s,
          (New York:
Oxford), 1980, p. 132.
[17]  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
          Hyman) 1
[18]  "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.
[19]  Cole, "Pagination, Page by Page."
[20]  M.L. Stein
, "Joys and Sorrows of Pagination," Editor & Publisher, Dec. 24,
    1994, p. 24.
[21]  Cole, "Pagination, Page by Page."
[22]  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
l concerns
            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.
[23]  Weaver and Wilho
it, The American Journalist, p. 154-157.
[24]  Judee K. Burgoon, Michael B
urgoon and Charles K. Atkin, "The World of the Working
nalist," (New York: Newspaper Advertising Bureau) 1982.
[25]  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
s K.
        Gentry, "How Electronic Editing Equipment Affects Editin
g Performance,
        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,
     (Newbury Park
: Sage), p. 58-59.
[27]  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."
[28]  Russial, "Pagination and the Newsroom: A Question of Time"
[29]  J
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.
         Carter, "
Computerization as a Predominate Technology."
[30]  Underwood, Giffard & S
tamm, "Computers and Editing."
[31]  Ward and Hansen, "Journalist and Libr
arian Roles"; Russial, "Pagination and Newsroom
 Organization;" Underwood,
 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
 and Jon
          Clark, Technological Change at Work, 2nd edition, (B
uckingham: Open
     University), 1994.
[33]  See Harry Braverman
, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work
          in the
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.
[34]  Sociologist
Daniel Bell, computer scientist Herbert Simon and other information
         society, theorists argue that advanced technology benefits workers
 by eliminating
      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:
          Basic) 1984.
[35]  McLo
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
, Organizational
         Structure and Information Technology, (New Y
ork: Prentice-Hall), 1991, p.
[36]  Russial, "Paginat
ion and the Newsroom: Great Expectations."
[37]  Braverman, Labor and Mono
poly Capital.
[38]  See, for example, Shaiken, Work Transformed: Automatio
n and Labor in the
          Computer Age.
[39]  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).
[41]  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.
[43]  Marion Dearman and John
 Howells, "Computer Technology and the Return of the
r-Journalist," Journalism History, Winter 1975, 133-136.
[44]  McLoughlin
and Clark, p. 48.
[45]  Cited in Burris, Technocracy at Work.
[46]  Summa
rized in McLoughlin and Clark, p. 52-53 and 69.
[47]  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.
[48]  Russial, "Pagination and New
sroom Organization."
[49]  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."
[50]  Russial, "Pagination a
nd the Newsroom: A Question of Time;" Underwood, Giffard and
  Stamm, "Computers and Editing."
[51]  William S. Solomon, "Technological
 Change in the Workplace: The Impact of Video
          Display termi
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.
[52]  Zuboff, cited in Burr
is, p. 149.
[53]  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
is done,
            the data can be used and reused.
[55]  Ward and H
ansen, "Journalist and Librarian Roles."
[56]  Smith, Goodbye Gutenberg, p
. 115.
[57]  Fidler, "Computer Graphics and the News," p. 96.
[58]  Zubof
f, In the Age of the Smart Machine, p. 393.
[59]  Senker, "Automation and
Work in Britain."
[60]  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.
[61]  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.
[62]  Russial, "Pagination and the Newsroom: A Ques
tion of Time."
[63]  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
            involved in
 pagination and digital darkroom work. This is certainly the view from the
          perspective of paginators who develop repetitive stress inj
[64]  Russial, "Pagination and the Newsroom: A Question of Time."
[65]  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
sletter, p.7.
[66]  Ryan, "Goodvye Copy Desk, Hello Display Desk," p. 10.

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