It has been said so often that it has begun to lose its impact – journalism is dead. The glory days are over. Never again will we see in-depth thoughtful investigative journalism. The big, scary internet has been the sinister killer.
If everyone just took off the rose-tinted glasses for a second and turned around to face the future, or at least the present, they might get a more realistic view of the state of journalism.
Thinking transversally, what is journalism? What is its purpose and what does it aim to achieve? In a survey of journalists conducted by Jeremy Adam Smith of Stanford University, meaningful journalism was held to be that which had instigated policy or social change. Others have claimed that journalism provides citizens with the ability to be free and self-governing (Kovach and Rosenstiel in Craig D A, Excellence in Online Journalism) and some point to the characteristics of quality journalism, that it is accurate, independent, bias-free etc. Fundamentally, quality journalism should be an integral part of democracy, allowing citizens to discover and know their society.
So with this in mind, is journalism dead? Do citizens no longer have the ability to know their society? Do the numerous journalistic sites and articles proliferating on the net not subscribe to these characteristics and ideals of journalism? Did the traditional media ever do this?
I would argue that the long-held goals of journalism are being achieved in numerous ways online in the 21st century. Frameworks alleging the trustworthy properties of traditional media as opposed to the fickle and biased nature of new media are far too simplistic and often simply incorrect.
Towards the end of traditional media’s primacy, in-depth investigative journalism was sadly more an ideal than a reality. The business nature of newspapers, television stations meant quicker, less labour-intensive stories often took priority over extensively researched, investigative journalism. Despite this, various frames enamoured with ‘the good old days’ have inspired some to forget the realities of traditional media. As one particularly cynic commentator has put it ‘we tend to forget that journalism grew up to fill pages between ads’ (http://timberry.bplans.com/2009/05/is-journalism-dead-dying-or-just-faking-it.html#ixzz1KVsClaip).
One of the key issues raised in the death of journalism debate is how to finance meaningful journalism online and this is taken up in a Knight Garage blog article by Jeremy Adam Smith. For Smith, the future for funding meaningful investigative journalism seems to be in grants, donations, crowd-funding and nonprofit collaboration. I think this idea is fascinating and promising. Taking journalism away from its traditional commercial ad-driven habitat is surely a good thing. As Smith states ‘the combined predominance of social motivation and charitable support clearly suggests that journalism has become a social venture, not the bottom line business it once was’. I personally have more faith in journalism as a crowd-funded social venture than an advertisement funded commercial business.
There are far too many issues regarding the changing nature of journalism to tackle in a short blog post, but in short, it is unwise to frame the issue as simply traditional media good, new media bad. Or for that matter, the converse, that all old media was corrupt and all new media is a utopian charitable dream. The new journalism landscape is complex and exciting.
Whilst traditional media formats may be dying, quality journalism is far from dead.
Craig David A, 2011, Excellence in Online Journalism
Smith Jeremy Adam, ‘How We’re Financing Meaningful Journalism’ http://knightgarage.standford.edu/2011/03/how-were-financing-meaningful-journalism
Benton Joshua, ‘Eight trends for journalism in 2011: A Nieman Lab talk in Toronto’, http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/eight-trends-for-journalism-in-2011-a-nieman-lab-talk-in-toronto/?utm_source=feedburner