Journalism in the Digital Age #Inception

Raeesa Ashique - 3B Electrical
Posted on: March 27, 2018

The rise of the internet has impacted the methods and goals of journalism: news outlets, journalists, and readers are all affected, directly or indirectly.

The most obvious change is traditional print news becoming obsolete. There is no need to pick up a newspaper; everyone has a smart phone, and the news is available at one’s fingertips. (As a person with an old soul and a sentimental streak, I love paper; I have a copy of every Iron Warrior issue I have ever written for. They form an impressive stack in my room at my parents’ house.) But for the average person, reading the news on an internet-enabled device is much more convenient than picking up a paper. This has shifted the focus from news outlets to content aggregators, such as Google News, which display sources from uncountable outlets in one place, hence reducing the distinction between individual companies.

No,  the internet is not destroying journalism. As much as we all love the internet, we tend to have a negative misconception, almost a feeling of nostalgia, about “the good old days” when human interaction was commonplace and tech giants did not possess everyone’s information. (Again, I have an old soul; I didn’t live in the good old days, although I sometimes wish I did.)

But in this regard, there is a silver lining! The commonality of reading articles on a connected device allows outlets to collect real time analytics. They can track the number of site visitors, which devices are used, what times are most popular, which articles readers click on, and which articles they ignore. This collection of data can be used to tailor content and increase readership, an invaluable tool which was impossible with traditional print.

The ease of sharing has increased blogging as a medium, and user-based journalism. There is a shift in style, from monologue to dialogue: journalists develop a relationship with their readers, and engage in conversation. News is, often, no longer presented as a medium between corporation and audience.

Social media is integral to this change. For one thing, it has continued to change the dynamic between reporter and reader. Journalists can communicate with their followers around the clock, rather than only during the timeslot when the news airs. They can post questions, track down sources, and research a particular topic. Crowdsourcing is a major advantage: regular people become news sources when they upload video footage or images.

The presence and availability of different types of social media platforms has changed the way news is shared, with both positive and negative impact. Readers can get their daily news through any number of accounts, including Facebook and Twitter, which they check throughout the day anyway. However, the articles appearing on one’s newsfeed is catered to the individual, which may result in limited scope of topics and ideas. The presentation becomes more interactive as readers have the ability to comment on articles, which may result in either a valuable or toxic discussion among users.

Another potential downside is that articles on a newsfeed are competing for attention with various assorted, and probably stupid, posts. How can news articles and op eds compete with Buzzfeed and 9gag?

Multimedia platforms has also led to a shift in terms of journalistic intent. For example, YouTube and podcasts are two very difference sources of information compared to traditional print, which not only changes the way we receive news but also the way a reporter delivers it. Younger and more flexible journalists with multimedia skills, although potentially less experience in the field, are in higher demand: as the platform changes, those using the platform need to adapt accordingly.

Social media is a valuable tool when used correctly, but failing to do so can be detrimental.

According to a piece in the New York Times, “journalists are killing journalism”. Today, everything focuses on immediate access. High demand and quick turn-around time are representative of our day and age, and journalists must keep up in order to retain attention. The goal is to draw large audiences, so they must convince us, as readers, that we want what they are providing. They must give us what we want, how we want it, and when we want it.

Side note: this is a weird perspective for me to write, because I consider myself as a producer and a consumer of information. However, I have different goals, considering that I work for free; I write what gives me satisfaction as a writer, rather than what I think others want to read.

We can break down a news article as follows: What? So What? Now What? The first category is easy for readers to find – content aggregators such as Google News or any social media platform will display headlines as soon as a user opens the respective app. Readers are more interested in the commentary and analysis, which sets a particular outlet or journalist apart, wherein the acceptable ratio is 50/25/25. Additionally, not only do readers expect in-depth information along with their overview, but they expect everything at the same time. With the emphasis on immediate news, stories are delivered firsthand, which eliminates a lot of the editing and publishing process. Again, staying relevant as a news organization can make more experienced reporters less relevant.

The digital age has had both a positive and negative impact on how news is delivered, depending on one’s perspective. While readers require immediate access to news, journalists can gain immediate access to sources. While print news is sadly becoming obsolete, the opportunities rendered by the variety of multimedia platforms are almost endless if journalists care to take advantage. And while I may miss paper, at least we’re saving trees.

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