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IT: Information
IT: Information

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2 From newsreels to real news

2.1 Communication technologies

With the Industrial Revolution the idea of 'news' developed rapidly, and these days most people in the UK and other developed countries have concept of 'the news'. We expect to be kept up to date with the news through various sources, and to satisfy this expectation we have the businesses of newsgathering and dissemination of news.

In this section you will be learning about the development of the technologies used for newsgathering and dissemination by reading extracts from a paper written by one of the leading experts in the field.

In 1995 the IEE (Institution of Electrical Engineers – a UK-based association) held a colloquium entitled Capturing the Action: Changes in Newsgathering, which brought together technical experts working in the business of newsgathering in order to review developments. (A colloquium is a meeting at which specialists give talks on a topic or on related topics and then lead a discussion about them.) The introductory talk at the colloquium was presented by E.V. Taylor, who was at that time Head of Technology at ITN. His talk, 'From newsreels to real news', reviewed developments in news technology from the Industrial Revolution to 1995. As is usual with a colloquium, a 'Colloquium Digest' was produced which contained technical papers associated with each of the talks. I shall be using Taylor's paper to look at the role of information technology (IT) in the news business.

There are two factors which you should bear in mind as you read the paper.

  1. The audience was made up of people working in the field or with specific interest in newsgathering. Taylor was able to assume, therefore, that his audience was already familiar with many of the concepts and the specialist language ('jargon') that he used.

  2. Although the colloquium digest is available as an IEE publication, its primary distribution was to delegates who attended the colloquium (it would have been given to them when they arrived on the day). It would be used as a reminder of the talk and to fill in some of the factual details that the audience might have missed. It was not produced as a stand-alone document in the form you would find in a journal. There are no section headings, for example, and it is written using language similar to the language Taylor would have used when speaking.

Despite these shortcomings as a stand-alone printed text, Taylor's paper provides an excellent overview of the role of technology in the broadcast news industry, written by an expert who was living through the changes that were taking place. In the text which follows, I have broken down the original paper into a few paragraphs at a time and removed some text not needed for my purposes. I have also added a commentary to explain some of the terms and to discuss some other important topics in IT.