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Internet Killing the

Journalism Star?
"Journalists have the time, expertise, and authority that citizen
journalists often lack. We need journalists to support civic
society, so we, as a civic society, must figure out how we can
support them

____________________
Until recent decades, the word newsroom conjured images of large, smoky offices
peopled with shabbily-dressed hacks, desperately clacking away on typewriters in
order to get the days scoop in before deadline. A journalist was someone who walked
a beat, nose to the ground, hopeful that a tip or snippet of gossip would turn into a
front-page sensation.
Beginning in the 1990s, the rise of the internet has provoked wholesale change in the
field of mainstream journalism. The initial predictions of some, who anticipated this
would be a mere facelift, have proved unfounded, as the industry rule book has been
shredded, and new ideas, priorities and relationships have been formed.
For journalism, this upheaval is every bit as
revolutionary as the invention of the printing press in
the 1400s. As one industry blogger has said, "Forget
reporters, readers, viewers, column inches, press
runs and broadsheets - today, it's all about content
creators, posts, RSS feeds, search, social and page
views."

What is a journalist?
The internet has redefined the word journalist itself and the work it involves. Rather
than the restrictive definition as an employee of a media organisation, the term may
now refer to the largely amateur community of citizen journalists and bloggers who
also engage in the gathering and distribution of news.
An example of this is how a 2013 US Senate committee attempt to draft a bill about
journalistic protection hit a roadblock when members disagreed over the term
journalist, and whether unpaid newsgatherers should be included within it.
These amateurs often carry the advantage of being insiders or witnesses to the
matter of concern, with the ability to speak as experts. They can also work very
flexibly, often needing no more than a smartphone to record and report stories.
Industry observers argue that their inclusion is problematic, as amateur journalism
often has far greater issues with inaccuracy, inauthenticity and poor quality reporting,
meaning that the societal role of the professional journalist remains critical. Consider
how low-key but necessary reporting of events like council meetings and court

hearings is still predominantly the remit of


professionals.
As US academic Jay Rosen has said, "journalists have
the time, expertise, and authority that citizen
journalists often lack. We need journalists to support
civic society, so we, as a civic society, must figure
out how we can support them.
The internet also requires print journalists to broaden
their skillset, developing their skills broadcasting through microphones and behind
camera lenses. It also requires snappier writing and catchier headlines, with many
online news providers using a clickbait style.
Joining the conversation
Another profound change is in the role of
readers, who have a new relationship with
the news reporting process. Connections are
now horizontal, with increased
democratisation making a two-way alliance.
Also, major institutions and notable people
can address their audience directly,
bypassing the news media entirely.
Comment boxes at the bottom of articles
and on newspapers Facebook page, Twitter
sharing, the ability to contribute blogs,
photos and videos, and online polls all allow the audience to participate, satisfying a
basic individual need. As Rosen says, "Today, people not only know whats happening,
they want to do something about it."
This has brought challenges for journalists, summarised by one blogger as "journalism
has moved from a lecture to a conversation. Journalists are now increasingly involved
with their audience. The web and its less passive nature has meant that journalists
now have to engage with their readers, and they have to listen.
One aspect of this listening is how the web has allowed better editorial decisionmaking, as it allows for data gathering on what stories are most read, shared and
commented upon on the organisations home page or Facebook.
Social networking is also how many readers first hear of developing stories, with less
need to access the organisations site, with journalists themselves often actively
promoting their own work.
A crucial outcome of this is that media organisations now have less control over
content. No longer can media barons fully dictate what does and doesnt make the
news, or kill off stories at will.
Unlike some online sources, professional media companies are also restricted by
laws, meaning juicy stories are often public knowledge before news agencies can
properly report them, such as with the 2011 revelations about the footballer Ryan
Giggs, whom the British press were farcically barred from identifying.

How news is gathered


The internet has also changed the news
gathering process. News often breaks online
first, perhaps as unverified rumour, meaning
professional media organisations need to
work hard to provide up to date, accurate
reporting. Readers often find out news via
informal networks, then turn to professional
media organisations for details and
contextualisation, often through web site
sections on the topic.
This increased need for contextualisation has occurred at a time when journalists
themselves can research easily online, and monitor what other sources are saying.
Finding knowledgeable commentary on issues has become easier, with less need to
conduct expert interviews. Why would a business journalist chase up a local
economist when the views of a Nobel laureate like Paul Krugman are easily found on
his blog?
A new reader experience
New technology has created a new user experience, as news can be accessed
anywhere, anytime. Tablet computers are a further advance, as they have the
benefits of smartphones but are easier to read. Mobile applications mean that users
can access news quickly and on the go, but may prefer shorter texts. This is a huge
advance on the early days of online news, when primitive WAP technology on mobile
phones allowed only short text articles with no visuals.
Does this make money?
Fundamentally, journalism is a business, and needs to sustain profitability to survive.
The early days of the web saw predictions of doom for major media organisations, yet
in contrast, many found ways the internet can benefit them.
The news production process is now cheaper than ever, as news and information is
easily sourced, and the switch online means printing costs are reduced or indeed
eliminated, if the organisation abandons its print version. To refer to the industry as
"publishing" is now a misnomer as publishing involves only a mere click, and printing
is no longer the major cost.
Aside from generating revenue from advertising, which has become increasingly
creative and is characterised by campaigns running across multiple media formats,
some news organisations have introduced subscription models, but this has met with
varying results. The Wall Street Journal has succeeded with this as people are more
willing to pay for financial information, but other outlets failed, like The Irish Times,
which made a U-turn after finding that subscription was too much of an ask for its
readers, who moved elsewhere.
Other media outlets have found the online format a challenge. Rosen says that
although some have exploited the internets flexibility, others have been found

wanting, and many of the most progressive sites have never existed in print format,
such as The Huffington Post.
Is the end nigh for print?
Some cry woe that all this means the end of paper as a format, and indeed some
newspapers have abandoned it, but others argue this is irrelevant, as the medium is
less important than the message, and genuine journalism still has a crucial role. As
renowned academic Clay Shirky says, Society doesnt need newspapers. What we
need is journalism.
What this means is that journalists remain custodians of public knowledge and coach
drivers of discourse. Although gone are the typewriters, still fundamental is the need
to know how to report a story in sound, traditional methods like the inverted pyramid
format. As one blogger comments "...although the language has changed, the role of
telling stories remains the same. Journalism is still about observing, interpreting and
informing".

Topics:
The internet, media, journalism, US Senate, Boomerang, Jay Rosen,
clickbait, Paul Krugman, WAP technology, The Huffington Post, The Irish
Times, The Wall Street Journal, Ryan Giggs, Clay Shirky