Print journalism has been profoundly affected by the Internet. Previously the ‘gatekeepers of information’, journalists were perceived as holding a position of responsibility in shaping how society receive and view issues. The free and instant access to news sources on the Internet has made news accessible through a multitude of online sources, leaving the position of print journalism in question. Now it faces a fork in the road: will it die, or adapt and change with the online environment?
Online journalism: the inevitable future?
The move from consumers to online news sources has led to a continual decrease in newspaper sales and TV viewers. Accordingly, advertisers are choosing to spend elsewhere. It is becoming increasingly clear that the current media business model will die. If this trend continues there won’t be enough to sustain the production of newspapers, or pay the costs for running TV news.
As the statistics in the infographic above illustrate, the death of print newspapers appears inevitable. What are the implications if print journalism does go the way of the dinosaur though?
The role of the journalist is an important one. They are responsible for reporting the news and issues in an objective and ethical manner, using credible sources and only dealing in facts. Of course, some media outlets have been guilty of sensationalist, unethical and biased reporting, particularly the tabloid media. By and large though, journalists have fulfilled this role.
The eroding role of journalists as the gatekeepers of news has raised one important question: how can we trust news reported by Internet sources? Most of these sources do not have the same checks in place to ensure the information is accurate. If journalists incorrectly reported a story, displayed bias or defamed someone they often faced legal consequences. The anonymous nature of online reporters makes this nearly impossible. Bias, slander and rumour can be reported with very little consequence.
Another implication is the fact that people who use Internet for news have become blind to many important issues. The media has previously had an important role in ranking the most important stories for the day. People were able to gain a picture of world/national events, without the need to investigate for themselves. People are now more likely to find the news that they find most interesting, leaving a vast knowledge gap in their awareness of current affairs. The video below featuring New York Times editor David Carr and Bloomberg Media chairman Andrew Lack, discusses these phenomena at length.
The rise of the Internet has not been all bad for journalism though. It has given journalists a new tool for communication and resource for research. New stories can be discovered through social media or through other new sites. The contact details of sources can be discovered online. Hence they are able to produce more content at a faster rate.
As David Carr and Andrew Lack discuss in the video, it has also led to the rise of online news sites such as Buzzfeed, as well as news aggregators and blogs such as the Huffington Post. This suggests journalism will survive, but it will occupy a slightly different role. Indeed, whether people choose to read news produced by journalists will depend entirely upon their preferences and the type and quality of the work produced.
The central concern with the new age of Internet journalism is how to make money. Unless a more profitable business model is discovered, it is likely the number of journalists will continue to diminish. Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post rely on online advertising to survive, which as yet does not generate the same level of income as advertising did for the traditional media. Prominent newspapers such as The New York Times have introduced a pay wall, while others such as The Guardian offer content for free and are attempting to move into foreign markets in the western world.
Journalism will continue to exist, but not in its current form. As the world becomes more digitalised, journalists will be required to continually adapt to new trends. Their jobs will predicate on the type of content they produce and their ability to command a following of readers.