Freely consuming news through social media is threatening print and electronic journalism. But the solution may not be in preserving journalism the way we know it — but in shifting it to change with the world.
As part of a new yearlong investigation into the future of journalism, the Toronto Star’s Catherine Wallace is exploring how the Internet revolution has affected the journalism industry in recent history.
In her first article of the series, Wallace questions whether the democratization of news on the Internet is causing a downfall of quality journalism. She poses a significant question — what do we mean when we talk about journalism in the age of social media?
Newspapers, particularly ones that focus on print journalism, are suffering. When anyone with an Internet connection can access information at the touch of a button, it’s a no-brainer that subscriptions to papers are dwindling.
But less people picking up physical newspapers doesn’t mean less people are consuming news or that the entire industry is dying.
Newspapers that are holding onto print media out of a longing for what once was are fighting a losing battle. While Wallace’s emphasis on the need for funding towards local news systems makes sense, news companies that are investing money into change rather than resisting it are the ones facing the least loss.
For instance, The Washington Post invested millions of dollars into their electronic platform in the past year. They were also one of few major news companies to end the year with gains rather than losses — in 2016, their digital subscription revenue rose by 75 per cent according to a letter by Post publisher Fred Ryan.
In the past, part of the value of news sources was their ability to tell the story first. But in a culture where it takes seconds to Tweet or post on Facebook, perhaps the value of journalism isn’t in speed anymore, but in credibility.
As media outlets are daily branded with labels of “fake news”, maybe the significance of journalism has shifted from telling the story first to telling it with facts, without bias, and telling it well.
The journalism industry, even if it’s changing, still has a unique ability to criticize and challenge the institutions that populate our everyday lives. While news outlets aren’t immune to biases, they’re powerful when they let these biases go and focus on finding truth.
If you try to predict the future of journalism with an expiry date in mind, it’s going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you look ahead with an openness to change and growth, the future doesn’t seem bleak — in fact, it can be pretty hopeful.
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