‘The press’ vs. ‘the media’ … a battle for the internet age
Newspapers shrink, presses vanish but both terms live on
There is no bigger visual cliché in this business than a fedora with a “press” card in the band.
Spectator reporter Matthew Van Dongen is sometimes spotted wearing one in the newsroom, but I think it’s meant to be ironic.
I’m not sure any journalist has ever actually worn such a getup in public on any day but Halloween.
In movies, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, to name just three, all played journalists and they all wore fedoras, but none, apparently, had a “press” card in the hat band.
You might think the term “press” would be equally as archaic, anachronistic or just plain difficult to find in an internet age of shrinking newspapers and disappearing printing presses, but in fact it persists.
For example, we often hear about “press” conferences, even though they haven’t really been that for decades, the better part of a century even.
After all, a growing majority of journalists now work for radio, television, or internet-only news agencies with no actual printing press.
Even The Hamilton Spectator, one of a shrinking group of newspapers with printing presses still on site, is now more of a multiplatform news organization than simply a newspaper.
Nonetheless, Canada’s prime minister still has a “press secretary.” So does the president of the United States, who also has a “principal deputy press secretary.” The president of France has a “chargée des relations de presse” or press officer.
Then there is “press attache,” kind of like a press secretary or press officer, but less important perhaps. Or maybe more?
“Press” people, it turns out, are everywhere, clearly outnumbering actual presses. But there are signs of change. In the movie business, “press agent” has mostly been replaced by “publicist,” which better reflects what they do. The Hamilton Police Service has a media relations officer; McMaster University has media relations managers. Still, old habits die hard. Some governments and corporations regularly distribute “press releases,” but I like to call them news releases or media releases. I expect TV journalists do too.
BuzzFeed, a strictly digital and thoroughly modern news organization, has a section called BuzzFeedPress, which comes complete with a cute little icon of the hat — yes! — described above. Maybe it’s also used ironically. Huffington Post, a digital news agency, likewise refers to members of “the press.”
Some colleagues still use “press conference” or simply “presser” but our internal spell-checking software will change it to news conference.
But that’s not entirely accurate either — the media can mean more than just journalists. Television, the movies, advertising — it’s all “the media.”
And it hardly matters; when politicians complain about media coverage, they usually stick to the term “the press.” Granted, the media takes it on the chin an awful lot, but it’s “the press” that is the go-to derogatory term.
That said, I prefer “press freedom” to “media freedom” — one sounds noble and heroic, and the other sounds chaotic, like herding cats, or, well, paparazzi.
Granted, the media takes it on the chin an awful lot, but it’s “the press” that is the go-to derogatory term.