Media products as historical artefacts

Authored by: Bingham Adrian

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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The media industry, more than almost any other, is based on ephemerality. We browse newspapers and magazines and then discard them with little thought; we tune in and out of television and radio channels with a casual press of a button. In the world of the internet and 24-hour news and entertainment, this ephemerality has intensified, as journalists insistently pursue the next scoop on the assumption that there is little interest in ‘yesterday’s news.’ There is a frenetic pace to the modern media environment. Beneath this surface preoccupation with the present and the immediate future, however, there is an awareness, at least in some sections of the media, of broader and deeper perspectives. It is most evident in the traditional cliché that journalism provides the ‘first draft of history’, or the bold self-definition of certain titles that they are ‘newspapers of record’, with the implicit assumption that citizens and scholars of the future will find it essential to consult their archives. With new technologies and digital storage capabilities, moreover, broadcasts no longer disappear into the ether, newspaper articles have a life beyond the library shelves, and films and television serials are endlessly recycled on a multitude of satellite and digital channels. The products of the media are at once disposable and durable; instant commodities and historical artefacts.

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