Posted by: davidrcollier | August 5, 2009

Everything that has happened in the past will happen again

An article on Slate looks at the issues surrounding the newspaper-radio war of the 1920s and 30s to see if it offers and guidance or parallels with the current newspaper-internet war.

The then-and-now media parallels don’t line up perfectly, but a review of the war between newspapers and radio provides something just this side of enlightenment and helps frame the underlying issues in the current fight for advertising dollars. Along the way, Jackaway establishes that the newspaper industry was as shameless in the 1930s as it is today and hints at how this modern conflict may resolve itself.

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Although not completely analogous to today’s tussle between the newspapers and the Web, the media battle in the 1920s and 1930s echoes its points of contention. Back then, anti-radio newspapers (newspapers that didn’t own radio stations) were furious over the unauthorized use of newspaper and wire service copy, just as today’s Associated Press and newspaper publishers are raging over what they regard as the theft of their copy and headlines by Web sites and search engines like Google.

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How did the great newspaper-radio war finally resolve itself? In a nutshell, radio established its own wire services, including its thriving national wire, Transradio Press, in 1934. The war was over by 1935, George E. Lott Jr. writes in “The Press-Radio War of the 1930s” (Journal of Broadcasting, Summer 1970), with the newspapers essentially giving up. A period of “armed peace” ensued.

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