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Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Your Medium Is Dying; Journalism Is Not

In Opinion on October 21, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Change is the one constant in life. It can also be seen throughout history that whenever a new technology gains wide use, society adjusts, often in a major way. It is hardly surprising that the advent of the internet and its adoption by a large portion of the population has lead to major disruptions in traditional structures, from the music industry to the halls of government and institutions of journalism. Journalism and newspapers in particular have taken a major hit by the internet. Institutions once held as the protectors of democracy and truth are now viewed with the same pity as the terminally ill. Rumors circulate of the closing of major newspapers and journalists hardly hold the same position in society that they once did.

The internet has, among other things, drastically reduced the barriers of entry to publishing. Where reporting and commentary was once reserved for a select few who had proved themselves, the widespread adoption of online publishing platforms, particularly blogging, now guarantees a megaphone to anyone willing to speak. Some will claim that this will inevitably lead to disorder: a room full of shouting miscreants makes it difficult to get anything done. In this however it is important to note that not all voices are equal and that online publishing is steeped in a naturally occurring meritocracy, created by the link economy . The presence of disorder and the infamous “noise” is merely an issue of filtering; good filters have allowed quality material to rise to the top of the muck, through methods employed by the ecosystem as well as the end consumer. This problem has to a certain extent already been solved. One can unfollow people on Twitter if they report the contents of their breakfast instead of the news. The use of commenting on blogs has provided greater fact-checking than newspapers have the personnel or time to provide and greater exposure than a correction box at the bottom of page A2. Distortion of the truth by writers leads to quick discredit.


On the flip side, there is value even in the mundane. The opinions of the many have implications for decisions made by those in power. Democracy’s strength lies in the diverse solutions that arise from all people having a voice. There is hope then that the shift of the means of publishing from the few to the many will lead to a richer political environment. After all, journalists undertake a vast number of functions that could be performed by those with less expertise and more time, freeing the expertise of journalists to be employed in the most important situations. Another benefit is the incorporation of readers and other actors into the practice of good journalism, something now labeled the mutualization of journalism . The internet has introduced into journalism a “layered stack” approach to reporting, with millions of eyes at the bottom, a smaller group in the middle that disseminates stories and the top section, full of sources, both niche and general that compete for trust every day.

So why is journalism important for political scientists? Journalism is not the trade of a select few, but the responsibility of all citizens; not necessarily as a career, but certainly as a vocation for all with the desire to see democracy flourish. Journalism is not a business model. It is not a distribution of information. Journalism is an occupation, an indicator of healthy democracy. It is not going anywhere.


For more information on the present state and future of journalism, check out these sources.

Jay Rosen, professor of journalism, mindcaster

Twitter, PressThink, Rebooting The News podcast, Newsassignment.net

Dave Winer – inventor of RSS and blogs, media critic

Twitter, Scripting News

Patrick LaForge – editor of the New York Times’ City Room blog

Twitter

Jeff Jarvis – journalism professor and watcher of new media

Twitter, Buzz Machine


by Jesse Randall

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