How is Journalism as a profession being challenged by new media?

Posted by | March 9, 2014 | New Media | No Comments

The emergence of new media has changed the current media landscape for journalists. Online journalism such as blogging has become an important tool on the World Wide Web. Citizen journalism is on the rise. The Internet has provided a wealth of information and competition for old media forms. How will new media affect the future of journalism?

New media has had an impact on current day journalism. New media can be defined by its technology (interactivity, digitalization, convergence) services (delivery of information, entertainment, political participation, education, commerce) and textual forms (genre hybridity, hypertextuality, multimedia) (Livingstone, 2002). There is great uncertainty regarding the changing media environment (Livingstone, 2002, pp 21). Many argue that new media will supplement rather than replace old media (Livingstone, 2002). As the diversity of media increases audiences become more fragmented. Audiences are less predictable. As the information and communication technology advances new forms of media content will arise. Globalization has been fueled by the technology. Will old media respond by producing more locally driven content or present a more global identity? The sudden changes brought about by the Internet and new media has left many old media organizations behind. They did not see the power of emerging new media and were slow to respond.

Pressure has been put to bear on old media by the changing media landscape. This leads to fewer editorial resources, lower budgets, and news space being carved back (Beecher, 2005, pp10). Serious journalism becomes increasingly marginalized due to its lack of profitability. Journalism is becoming less about news and more about entertainment. The greatest example of this is Rupert Murdoch and the Fox News channel. Highly opinionated hosts are more worried about producing entertainment and high ratings than responsible reporting. If entertainment is more profitable what is there to stop this from continuing? Competition for opinion and entertainment news has increased (McNair, 2006). The media is now highly commercialized so the chances for serious journalism are decreasing. Could the financial adjustments in old media lead to a greater importance placed on Internet journalism?

The Internets wide reach means the public knows more than it ever did (McNair, 2006). Online journalism now ranges from amateur works to established professionalism. McNair (2006) argues online journalism relies less on the objectivity and reliability of established journalism and more on the immediacy and independence or objection of old media. The struggle between old journalism and new journalism has helped drive the evolution of the Internet and online news. Originally established names such as the BBC dominated online journalism. As the blogosphere emerged in 2002 and 2003 amateurs gained a greater voice in the online world.

As old media brought their newspapers online they began to have a global reach. Australian newspapers are read around the world, and the world can read Australian newspapers. These days there are few newspapers without an online presence. BBC News and Guardian Unlimited have taken the cyber versions of their publications more seriously. They were the first to start providing web only content for free. Unfortunately most web sites are still losing money. Organizations are involved in an urgent search to make online journalism not just an integral part of a media business but a profitable one (McNair, 2006, pp 127). Many organizations that charge users for content find it difficulty to persuade them to pay (McNair, 2006).

It could be said that new media has been able to challenge the establishment because of the depressing state newspaper journalism has been in. Professional journalism has entered a period of declining rule (McNair, 2006). By the late 1990s many journalists had established their own websites to act as shopping windows to their work, and to invite dialogue with their readers (McNair, 2006). Margo Kingston who ran “webdiary” Australia’s first mainstream blog believes new media has had a liberating effect on journalists. Kingston (2005, pp 78) suggests the “the traditional way of writing news had become redundant as newsmakers got to know and exploit our news judgment and our deadlines to mould news reporting to fit into their propaganda machines.”

Australian writer Eric Beecher argues that technological trends are conspiring to threaten mainstream quality media in a serious way. He suggests there are simply too many negative pressures for journalism to survive in its current form. The Internet is rewriting the rules of modern communication. Could the technological revolution further entrench the power of the big media owners?

Beecher (2005, pp7) argues that if the technological trends continue there could be very little journalism of excellence left after a decade. The public now has a deep distrust of the media. Young people are drawn away from old media and towards new media. As more and more people lose interest in current affairs, what matters to serious journalists conflicts with what matters to the public. The media is now beginning to dumb down its content to appeal to the largest possible audience. This in turn drives away the audience that is after quality journalism (Beecher, 2005). New media is challenging the funding sources of old media. This leaves many newspapers with less financial resources. Financing serious journalism then becomes a major problem. The Internet is rapidly replacing old media as the world’s most dominant source of information, analysis and commentary. More and more journalism is moving online. How is this content financed if it is given away for free? Beecher (2005) is another writer that suggests no one has found a viable financial business model to finance the high costs of quality editorial content.

Although new media is challenging journalism it can also be used to aid journalists. The Internet has allowed journalism content to be produced by millions of people at little or no cost (Pablik, 2001). Pavlik (2001) suggests the quality of the content varies widely. The Internet has emerged as a very useful resource for professional journalists. Information gathered from the web can be used as sources and leads for stories. Mailing lists, bulletin boards and web sites all house valuable information that otherwise may not be available. Pavlik (2001) believes reporting on every story can be enriched by the use of online research. Information that would previously take a lot of time to track down and recover is now quickly accessible. Companies now publish many documents online, and databases are very useful resources for journalists. Fleming (2000, pp 178) asserts that technological advances open areas that were previously restricted for investigative journalists.

Journalists are always working under constraints. Journalists of the 20th century increasingly faced political, economical and professional restrictions. The Internet has allowed some journalists to be freed from the constraints of traditional publishing. Time spent finding people and information has been reduced. The computer can be used to aid journalists not replace them (Fleming, 2000). Instead of having to travel to a particular location to do research or file a story, journalists can now use e-mail. Instead of relying on public officials or press releases the online world has opened up other avenues of information. Independent expert opinion is quickly produced online and can be used to provide additional meat to a story. The Internet is freely accessible. With many new sources of information, investigative journalism may now have a brighter future (Fleming, 2000). Fleming (2000) believes the Internet will make it easier for journalists to release information that would otherwise be too sensitive. No longer will they be forced to deal with the political restrictions and censorship of traditional outlets.

Now there is level playing field in the online world of journalism. Journalists have no privilege over citizens (Fleming, 2000, pp 179). Although there is so much more information and resources provided by the Internet this could be counterintuitive. Journalists may spend hours wading through vast amount of information to find the relevant material. Suddenly the skill of filtering information in a crowded domain takes on added importance. As information transfers quickly on the Internet it can be very easy for disinformation to be spread. Breaking news stories are now produced online. If information is incorrect there are not enough checks and balances to stop the flow of this misinformed news. It is a large competitive space and being first with the story may override publications standards of accuracy. The technology allows greater scrutiny of the powerful but this could be a double-edged sword. Journalists could find themselves on the receiving end of the same technology. It could be used to track down journalists and for information to be stifled (Fleming, 2000).

Blogs have taken an increasingly prominent role in the world of online journalism. Blogs are an interactive form of communication. Old media has been unable to provide this. Have newspapers lost their connection with readers? Blogs have taken advantage of a lack of communication between writer and reader. Voices that have previously been subdued by old media now have an outlet for their views. Journalists can utilize their readers to pull together expertise and get information on a story (Kingston, 2005). They must however maintain standards of reliability and accuracy. The proliferation of blogs has led to lower standards but the popular blogs are of high quality. Bloggers can broaden coverage of an issue and provide a fresh perspective. They are now competing against established journalists for the same readers. This is challenging journalists to maintain their readers and still appeal to a younger audience.

The Internet and the power of blogs were able to allow Margo Kingston to publish full transcripts of interviews. No longer did the newspaper editors and their own agendas control her articles. Kingston (2005, pp 80) believes interactive journalism or participatory journalism can save the profession. Through the use of blogs, journalists can now fully interact with their readers. The readers are now empowered to ask questions and comment on articles.

Bloggers gained more freedom by avoiding defamation and libel laws that print media is subjected to (McNair, 2006). Furthermore now bloggers are free of professional obligations it allows them to be more opinionated in their writing. The blogosphere is free of editing. This can be attractive to journalists but may be detrimental in some cases.

Blogs have ensured a wealth of space for dialogue. This communication was previously relegated to a very small section of newspapers. The audience gets to decide what is important and write about it. Although much has been made of the thousands of amateur blogs, some blogs are unmistakable journalism (McNair, 2006). Blogs have risen from a curiosity to being an integral part of mainstream media. The Internet has been viewed in the past as a growing fad. It now demands to be acknowledged as an important aspect of everyday lives.

Mainstream media no longer control the news flow. They were previously gatekeepers of news. Although the Internet is full of hundreds of thousands of blogs, the most successful blogs rise to the top by keeping high standards of journalism. Objectivity remains a crucial value for journalists and the best bloggers know this (McNair, 2006, pp132). New media isn’t forcing journalism to die, but simply adapt. We know more and have access to more information than ever before. The web provides journalists with great competition, but also great resources. The journalists of tomorrow may be born out of the Internet and emergence of online and citizen journalism. Those journalists may then adopt new roles amongst old media organizations adapting to a changing media environment.

Citizen journalism has risen in the changing media environment. An increase in personally owned media has been brought about by a reduction in the price of media goods (Livingstone, 2003). This has facilitated the emergence of citizen journalism. Mark Poster (1995, pp 27) believes those who can afford the computer equipment are now their own producers, agents, editors and audiences.

Is new media a modern force that is uncontrollable? Mark Poster (1995, pp 18) believes that previously the broadcast model of having few producers and many consumers was the only way of receiving media. As media had decentralized users now have direct control of when, what, and with whom they exchange information (Poster, 1995). The Internet has allowed people to personalize the news they want and have it delivered to them. Old media is no longer in control of what people read and how they read it. As citizen journalism spreads stories are now told to different audiences in different and interesting ways. Poster (1995, pp27) believes “desktop broadcasting” or widespread citizen reporting is transgressing the constraints of broadcast oligopolies. Those with a computer and an Internet connection can tell stories to a mass worldwide audience. This has shifted the power away from old media.

As old media declines, citizen journalism increases. They must change to keep up to date with the current technology and changing landscape. People are beginning to bypass mainstream sources. Burgeoning Internet publications and resources such as “indymedia” have now surfaced. Independently produced journalism can find a greater presence on the net than ever before. It can genuinely compete for an audience online amongst the larger corporations. There are now thousands of independent sites and news blogs. In fact bloggers can filter and fact check articles from established journalists. The use of the Internet to provide audio and video and hypertext links with stories only enhances their impact.

Pavlik (2005, pp 245) believes new media has transformed the world of journalism fundamentally. The technological change presents both a great opportunity and challenge for journalism. The change has affected how journalists do their work and how they gather and edit news. In February 18th, 2004 the New York Times ran its first front page news photograph taken with a mobile phone. This is a sign of things to come. As technology continues to advance so will the ability for the general public to cover breaking news stories. The recent shooting at a college campus in America was another example. In just hours video of the incident was taken on a mobile phone and then distributed online and via news bulletins. New ethical problems arise from such behavior. What is acceptable to be filmed by a citizen acting as a journalist? What journalistic responsibilities will people abide by when obtaining or taking footage of such incidents? Reporters will also be using digital technology more in the future. This could also lead to a growing number of journalists working as freelancers (Pavlik, 2005).

The technology now allows journalists to cover stories even if they are in different continents. Digital storage technologies are now powerful and inexpensive. Such devices are easily linked to the Internet and articles can be uploaded or e-mailed across the globe quite easily. Video and audio can also be saved and uploaded. Internet stories are increasingly becoming visually driven utilizing the interactivity of the web page. News can now be packaged and repackaged for different audiences (Pavlik, 2006). News stories can now be updated throughout the day, especially in regards to breaking news. Online newspapers are able to constantly update their articles and correct misinformation. This is a clear advantage over old media, which must publish by a deadline. Online news is immediate. Geographic boundaries are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

If there is a breaking story in another country such as 9/11 new reports can be accessed as soon as it is published online. All these changes will lead to the news media having to transform their business model and utilize e-commerce (Pavlik, 2006). Pavlik (2006) predicts future journalists will have to adhere to high ethical standards. The future of journalism could see more offshore production to reduce costs. Audience input will be more highly valued and reporters will be able to spend more time in the field using the latest technology to report back to the newsroom. News could have various distribution models utilizing mobile phones, web sites, newspapers and broadcasting. The viewing experience is changing and the user has more control than ever before. Interactive media such as blogs have changed the way media organizations present news.

There is now an unprecedented level of competition in electronic information (Pavlik, 2006). Jim Willis (1994) does not believe electronic media will wipe out print media in the future. He does warn that turning over editing control to the public will result in less responsibility for the stories and informing citizens appropriately. He foresees more and more power and control transferring to the public and suggests new media will create immediate environments, where the emphasis is on speed.

Digital distribution of content is diminishing the role of newspapers. Beecher (2005, pp 24) contends, “The internet and digital technology are rewriting the rules of modern communications.” This leads to great uncertainty among many about how journalism of the future will pan out. New Media has challenged journalism to reinvent itself. Is it equipped to do so? The younger generation now accepts many resources as free, including the news. News organizations have struggled to convince people to buy news articles online. In fact the spread of content online has left many journalists struggling to fight plagiarism and the stealing of content.

New media has challenged journalism as a profession. New media has changed the media environment. Old media has not declined but rather been forced to adapt. Online journalism has taken on greater importance. Blogs have freed many journalists from old media constraints. The Internet has also become a fantastic resource that can aid journalists in research and filing of reports. New media has aided journalists with improved technology. There is still great uncertainty about the future of journalism. New media will undoubtedly play a part in its future form, whatever that may be.

Annotated Bibliography

Eric Beecher, “The Decline of the Quality Press” in Robert Manne (ed) Do Not Disturb: is the media failing Australia? (Melbourne: Black Inc Books, 2005), pp7-27

Australian writer Eric Beecher argues that technological trends are conspiring to threaten mainstream quality media in a serious way. He predicts that in a decade there will be very little journalism of excellence left and it would be a tragedy for journalists and the Australian democracy. Beecher argues that it is to the detriment of journalism that the Internet has rapidly replaced the printing press as the world’s most dominant source of information. While in theory it should lead to more good journalism Beecher contends no one has found a viable financial business model to finance the high costs of quality editorial content. Beecher predicts journalism will not survive in its current form. Beecher suggests the Internet is rewriting the rules of modern communication. Beecher maintains the technological revolution could further entrench the power of the big media owners.

Carole Fleming, “Journalism and New Technology” In Investigative Journalism Context and Practice Edited by Hugo de Burgh (London and New York: Routledge, 2000) pp. 177-197

Fleming believes the Internet and computer technology can aid journalists. Fleming suggests the Internet will free journalists from the political, economic and professional constraints of 20th century journalism. Fleming declares that the Internet will reduce time and space and make it easier for journalists to track down and access people. Fleming believes the Internet will make it easier for journalists to release information that would otherwise be too sensitive for traditional outlets with their political restrictions and censorship. Fleming also highlights the negative aspects of technology in that it can be used to track down and keep track of journalists. Fleming is concerned that this could cause information to be stifled rather than liberated.

Margot Kingston, “The Future of Fair Dinkum Journalism” in Barons to Bloggers: Confronting Media Power, The Alfred Deakin Debate, series editor Jonathan Mills, (Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, 2005), pp. 76-88

Margo Kingston ran “webdiary” which became Australia’s first mainstream media blog. Kingston is a great supporter of blogs. Kingston contends that newspapers have lost the connection to the readers they serve and that the future lies in collaboration between journalists and their readers. Instead of journalists telling readers what happened and why Kingston would like to see them involved in a discussion with readers. Kingston states that people no longer send a letter to the editor instead they go online and read a blog. Kingston believes bloggers broaden coverage and allow fresh perspectives. She does not believe that blogs will kill journalism but instead will restore journalism’s reputation with readers.

Sonia Livingstone, Young People and New Media (London: Sage Publications, 2002)

Livingstone attempts to avoid the hype surrounding new media and presents a number of distinct features of the form. These include the multiplication of personally owned media that encourages the privatisation of media. The diversification of media and media content which leads to a wider trend towards individualization. Livingstone also highlights the convergence of traditionally distinct media that results in a blurring of distinct social boundaries. Livingstone believes the expansion of interactive forms of media will transform what once was a mass audience into engaged and participatory users of information and communication technologies. Livignstone theorises that the Web will supplement traditional media rather than replace it.

Brian McNair, “Mapping the global public sphere II: online journalism and the blogosphere”, chapter 8, in McNair, Cultural Chaos: journalism, news, power in a globalised world, (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), pp. 118-134.

McNair claims that the emergence of the Internet now means the public knows more than it ever did. McNair describes the dichotomy of online journalism from established professionalism to amateur works. McNair asserts online journalism relies less on the objectivity and reliability of established journalism and more on the immediacy and independence or objection of old media. McNair describes how the new voices and the struggle between old journalism and new journalism has helped drive the evolution of the Internet and online news. Mcnair explains that originally professional sites such as the BBC dominated online journalism but the birth of the blogosphere has changed the landscape. McNair believes news media transformed their publications from national to global reach with the introduction of online sites. McNair stresses that broadcast and print media are governed by defamation and libel laws whilst the blogosphere is clearly not.

John V Pavlik, “A Reporter’s Guide to the Internet”, in Journalism and New Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), pp. 61-8

Pavlik reveals that the Internet has allowed journalism content to be produced by millions of people, at no cost, but believes that the quality of that content varies widely. Pavlik suggests the Internet can be a very good source of information on stories, sources and leads. Pavlik cites the Internet as a useful resource for the professional development and continued education of journalists from mailing lists, bulletin boards and web sites on journalism. He advises that reporting for every story can be enriched by online research. He also details the ease of gaining information that traditionally could only be accessed on-site.

John V Pavlik, “Running the Technological Gauntlet: Journalism and new media” in Hugo de Burgh (ed) Making Journalists (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), pp. 245-262.

Pavlik believes new media is transforming the world of journalism fundamentally. He believes that there is now a sea change in the world of news. He cites online media as having huge growth and maintains the technological changes will have a huge impact on how journalists do their work. Pavlik predicts the erosion of the quality of journalism if an economic world doesn’t appear in the online world. Pavlik calls for ethical standards to be maintained and the development of a suitable business model for online journalism.

Mark Poster, The Second Media Age (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1995)

Mark Poster argues that cyberspace has led to stories being told in different forms to diverse audiences in different ways. The Internet can offer simultaneous transfer of sound, text and video. Poster states that the ease of use of new technology and the Internet has created a phenomenon of desktop broadcasting and citizen reporting, that is transgressing the constraints of broadcast oligopolies. He raises the question of the narrative structure of second media age communications and whether they will promote a proliferation of little narratives or develop an authoritarian technocracy. He highlights the appeal to tell one’s story to a mass audience with the only requirement being a computer and an Internet connection.

Jim Willis, The Age of Multimedia and Turbo News (Westport, Connecticut & London, Praeger Publishers, 1994)

Jim Willis predicted a merging of print and electronic media. He does not believe electronic media will wipe out print media in the future. He perceives the allure of new media being the mixing of video and text. He does warn that turning over editing control to the public will result in less responsibility for the stories and informing citizens appropriately. He foresees more and more power and control transferring to the public and suggests new media will create immediate environments, where the emphasis is on speed. He declared that the 1990s would witness more changes in media forms and their effect on journalism than any decade since the founding of the printing press.

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