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The Impending “Death of Journalism”

Written by: Lane Barrette, Editor in Chief

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As a new generation of people come into the world, the more brains and opinions follow suit. With renovation and technological advancements constantly changing the way people live, industries and businesses have to change in order to survive that ever changing consumer. Journalism is not any different. Sadly, an epidemic has struck traditional and modern journalism, that could be interpreted as the “death of journalism”. From what the press’s foundation is comprised of, many factors are currently bringing the industry down a whole. Change is needed in order to sustain both traditional and modern journalism.

*Newspapers are losing popularity*

The “Death of Journalism” could be interpreted as a physical loss of a newspaper or the credentials of said news; both losses greatly affect journalism as a whole. On the traditional side of journalism, newspapers or newsletters played a major role in how people receive news.

“In the past decade, as a percentage, more print journalists have lost their jobs than workers in any other significant American industry… A dozen historic papers have disappeared entirely in the US since 2007, without the resources required to hold city halls to account or give citizens a trusted vantage on their community and the world,” stated Tim Adams, former editor of The Observer.

Like many other commercial industries’ declines from technological advancements, these declines don’t occur without a cause. The world has changed to being very reliant on internet and technology. Journalism and many other industries have to change in order to survive as a business and organization. The cause: the world’s shift from newspapers to online resources. For smaller communities, newspapers used to be the primary source of news consumption, but due to less and less of people purchasing newspapers, many news networks are not able to afford to push out news through newspapers.

Later in the same article, Adams states, “The reasons for this decline are familiar – the abrupt shift from print to pixels, the exponential rise in alternative sources of information, changes in lifestyle and reading habits, and, above all, the disastrous collapse of the city paper’s lifeblood.”

Journalism, and journalists, suffer from the lack of income that used to come from newspaper consumers. Removing the consumers from this equation causes the industry to not be able to afford to produce news.

“The Inquirer, the third oldest survivor in America, as it was hit by falling sales, bankruptcy, five changes of ownership, and round upon round of staff cuts,” stated Adams.

Could journalism be revitalized if people started to buy newspapers like they used to? To some degree, that would definitely assist in the fall of traditional journalism, but other aspects of the “death of journalism” that would also need to be rectified in order to truly prevent this decline.

*Clickbait undermines the press*

As the world changes, some areas of the journalism industry have evolved into a popularity contest, thus ruining the standard for all of journalism. Due to the unreliable income from newspaper sales, news networks have transitioned onto the competitive platform that is the internet. In order to stand out from the crowd, news outlets have transitioned to the use of “clickbait”.

Journalism in its simplest form is collecting information and formatting it for consumers to understand and become knowledgeable on the status quo. Removing the context of an article by presenting a concept as clickbait disrupts and discredits journalists, which in turn, makes consumers of journalism not accept the information being given due to the misguided format that clickbait creates.

“Broadcasters especially try to entice their audiences through click-bait… It is often paid for by the advertiser or generates income based on the number of clicks,” stated Jeffrey Dvorkin, chief journalist for CBC Radio, in an article entitled “Why Clickbait will be the Death of Journalism”.

The result of basing an industry off of lackluster images or titles in order to pull in an audience causes the quality of journalism to worsen. Not only does the true meaning of an article become skewed, but the credibility of the news network becomes questionable.

“Journalism is being Uberized. Increasingly, content isn’t created by journalists once employed by legacy media. It comes from freelancers, citizen journalists, bloggers and vloggers. Freelancers are being hired while experienced, older journalists are laid off,” stated Dvorkin in the same article.

Journalism is being transformed into false advertising rather than the straightforward source of information it traditionally was. Before clickbait became popular among online media, journalism was a major watchdog and commentator of current events and higher political powers, which now is being trivialized due to the removal of straightforward information in exchange for eye opening revelations.

“One of the best qualities in the journalistic culture is skepticism. But when it comes to digital, skepticism has been replaced with unquestioning enthusiasm,” stated Dvorkin.

*People’s belief in “Fake news” causes loss in journalism credibility*

In the status quo, amongst political turmoil, the media and journalists as a whole, have been pinned as opinion based resources with little to no factual information. Getting straight to the point, modern journalism and journalists have no intention or desire to push a narrative of any sort. To some degree, “fake news” may have been a problem for many parties, but now politics have started to play the blame game for their mishaps on the media.

Stated in an article by Matt Laslo, a NBC journalist and professor for Johns Hopkins University, “Once the president labeled the press “fake,” any time the media declares the opposite, they’re no longer seen as defending a free, honest press but as entering the political realm as political actors who are directly opposing the president and his feisty base.”

When the President and his supports blamed the media for covering him in very great detail, all parts of journalism was being threatened. In response, many news outlets attempted to defend against the “fake news” allegations, which resulted into even more distrust by consumers of the media who support the president.

Arie Kruglanski, psychologist and graduate from University of Maryland, stated “No one deliberately and consciously desires false information. Quite the opposite: people consciously form their beliefs on the basis of information they assume to be correct. Explicitly, they desire the truth, the complete truth and nothing but the truth.”

From a recent estimate by Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow, during the 2016 presidential election, an average American was exposed to roughly 14 fake news articles. Since fake news is not always obvious, and on the contrary, are usually advertised as the truth, Americans began to accept this fake news as the truth, since it was what they wanted to believe.

“In these circumstances, messages may be accepted on faith, without much evidence and without extensive verification. Two types of motivation are particularly relevant here: the need for certainty (activated especially in times of turmoil and change), and the need for specific outcomes,” stated Kruglanski.

When people don’t acknowledge what is real and isn’t, people begin to believe in the first news they are presented with. Usually, people who stumble upon fake news and take it as truth are normally wanting that fake information to be truth. But nowadays, fake news has dwindled and now normal news outlets are suffering from people’s concurring beliefs of journalism has a “false agenda”.

“There is only one solution: Avoid buying into the false equivalency being peddled by the president and the alt-right between fake news and real news. There’s only news. Sometimes reporters get things wrong, but most of us[reporters] don’t view ourselves as enemies of the White House. We’re allies of an informed public,” stated Laslo.

“Fake news” is just another form of politics that is used to undermine the press. Currently, journalism is, and always has been, rooted in truth. Factual evidence and accounts move news stories forward and present the information to the public. This press is needed in order to inform people about what is happening with the world and where it is headed.

The press is one of the most important factors in educating and informing the public on issues that would affect them. Taking out journalism from the equation and the world would be much less educated, and in turn, would negatively affect the future of the world. This “death of journalism” is causing, not only stress on journalist and journalism, but the well-being of the rest of the world.

The question is, what needs to be done to preserve journalism. The solution is not just one sided; both journalists and the public need to take steps in order to protect the well-being of media and the press. On journalists’ side of the equation, tradition journalism must change in regards to both taking the transition to online sources, rather than basing income on physical newspapers, as well as taking journalism seriously, rather than utilizing clickbait in order to get the most clicks. On the flipside, the public needs to be aware of the press’s job: narrate on the political and social atmosphere that is happening in the status quo.

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