History Repeating?

The end of the world as we know it is coming. The internet has taken over. The 24hour news cycle has murdered traditional journalism. It’s history on repeat. As discussed by Tom Rosenstiels’ TED talk The Future of Journalism, the notion that people are turning away from news is not in itself true. He believes that instead, journalism is entering a ‘new enlightenment’. Mediums have adapted. Radio did not kill the newspaper. Television did not kill the radio. Online journalism will not kill traditional journalism.

Today news is on demand. We can get the news we want, when we want it. We are in control of our own learning. Thus Rosenstiel argues that we are to a greater degree than was ever true before, able to determine what we know and how we think about the world around us essentially making us more democratic citizens. Previously we had responsible gatekeepers force feeding us the news they thought we should know. People trusted them because they were a renowned brand with a good track record. The media told us what to think. Today news is on demand – we can get the news we want when we want it. We are in control of our own learning. We are not being told what to think, we are determining it for ourselves.

Overall it seems that the disruption caused by digital technologies in journalism is good for consumers. However it is, evidently, bad for media companies. Media companies are no longer the trusted gatekeepers of fact and fiction. We have become the producers. It cannot be debated that journalism is in a financial state of chaos as a result of the collapse of the advertising model, however it is not all doom and gloom for the future of news as a whole. Rosenstiel argues that ‘this disruption holds they key to journalisms own reformation’. It has happened before and we can do it again, embracing change and adopting technologies that overall enhance the quality of news and journalism has far greater benefits than desperately trying to salvage an industry that is rapidly losing face.

 

Is there really a ‘crisis’ in journalism?

It cannot be denied that the journalistic environment has, and still is, rapidly changing. Those that chronicle the development of new media forms like to focus on the decline, the melodrama, the ‘collapse’, the so-called ‘crisis’ that has become a catch cry for the death of the news industry altogether. However while jobs may be going in newsrooms, there is an undeniable growth in digital news operations.

This is not a black and white case of out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new. Yes, journalists have found themselves in the midst of a glacial shift towards online content and digital forms. Does this diminish journalism as a profession? Or merely encourage professionals to embrace a convergent media culture? Journalists, by nature, should want to be ahead of the crowd, blazing the way and guiding the future of journalism, not struggling to catch up. Media magnate Rupert Murdoch himself explains ‘the world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow’.

In our new digital age, there needs to be an appropriate balance between the traditional and the fresh in order to create well-informed citizens no matter their chosen medium. Indeed John Pavlik notes ‘the key to the viability of news media in the digital age, as demonstrated by both long- and short-term patterns, is innovation’ (Pavlik, 2013).

Take for example Farida Vis 2012 study ‘Twitter as a reporting tool for breaking news: journalists tweeting the 2011 UK Riots’ focusing on the use of twitter by journalists Paul Lewis (The Guardian) and Ravi Somaiya (The New York Times). Both actively tweeted throughout the four-day riot period embracing Twitter as a reporting tool and the two became the most frequently mentioned national and international journalists on Twitter during the 2011 UK summer riots.

One of the most accessible, and affordable, means of building an online presence is through creating a Twitter account. As of 31st of March 2014, there are approximately 972 million existing Twitter accounts. Not only does Twitter allow journalists a platform on which to promote their articles and break news, but it also gives them the opportunity to collaborate with citizen journalists, their sources, and audiences in a way they never have before. While this may in fact destroy the traditional media business model, it can also enhance the quality, reach and availability of news content for a global audience. Where is the catastrophe?

So perhaps we should quit with the over zealous use of  ‘crisis’ and start embracing the change. Watergate was not the mythical highpoint of journalism – there is still hope.  Journalism is not a dying form, it is an evolving one. In order to stay relevant, the profession must stop trying to revive the traditional and instead embrace the digital.

References

Farida Vis (2013) TWITTER AS A REPORTING TOOL FOR BREAKING NEWS, Digital Journalism, 1:1, 27-47

John V. Pavlik, 2013, “Innovation And The Future Of Journalism,” Digital Journalism, 1:2, 181-193,