In the world of journalism, advances in technology aren’t always good. When I use the term “good” I mean that which advances but which is not detrimental.
Through the use of new technologies there is an ever-widening highway down which information can travel. “Breaking” stories are instantly transmitted through the use of the Internet, keeping the public informed on a minute-by-minute basis.
However, gone are the days of the journalist as “gatekeeper”.
Broadsheets are now struggling with citizenship journalism as competition – not just in terms of news, but also in terms of advertising revenue. This is good in the sense that it provides a forum in which citizens can interact with the news and understand it in terms of the world around them, thus creating a stronger democracy. It is bad in the sense that citizens are not trained in the art and science of actually “doing” journalism, and often end up editorializing more than anything else. It also pulls vital advertising revenue away from broadsheets that have been forced to adopt a new business model of being both online and in print.
This is very problematic in daily tabs like The Evening Standard (London, UK) which is supported only by ad revenue and is available at all tube and train stations for free, after around 3pm. It is widely respected and indeed “used” by those who want a message to get out before the next days news cycle. As The Standard fights for its life, dropping staff and relying more on freelancers to stay alive, it likely employs more advertising executives than actual journalists.
It is beneficial for citizens to interact with and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them, but at what cost? As I have noted above, citizenship journalism often lacks some of the basic criteria for good journalism and is having a detrimental effect on the financial viability of many broadsheets. There are no standards applied to citizenship journalism, which often just pulls quotes out of other articles to prove some editorial point.
The effect that this has had on journalism in general is devastating. Mainstream broadsheets have had to cut down their workforce as more people get their news from online sources.
Some newspapers, such as the Times of London (UK) have erected a “pay wall” through which consumers of news can access broadsheet journalism online for a small fee. None of this, though, restores what broadsheet journalism used to be, nor can it do so.
For better or worse, the way that people gather news and interpret it has changed dramatically, and it has done so at the cost of consistent, reliable, conventional sources of information. News is now both that which is produced by a professional journalist, and that which amounts to legions of online pundits. The costs far outweigh the benefits.