Yesterday, I participated in an enthralling debate about the internet and journalism. Our discussion began with how journalism began and it’s importance in American culture as an independent entity from our government that is devoted to public welfare and informing its readers. However, with the movement into the digital age, there have been major changes in the delivery of news and the types of news we read daily. Recently, media and social media companies have come under fire for sharing fake news. This led to the debated question, has the internet killed true journalism?
Here were the two sides to the debate.
NO! The internet has had a positive impact on the media and journalism, increasing audience, storytelling tools and speed.
YES! The internet has destroyed journalism, removing accountability and accuracy and gutting the industry.
Personally, I’m on the side that the internet has not destroyed journalism, but actually enhanced it. Here’s why.
Yes, the internet has had major impacts on the industry of journalism and some of these impacts have resulted in unfavorable outcomes. However, I would argue that those outcomes lie in the fault of the readers and journalists themselves, not the internet. We always have a choice, a choice what to write and a choice what to read. What it really comes down to for the journalist or media company is this – Is reporting news a business or is it a moral or ethical obligation to inform people?
If it is simply looked at as a business then yes, lots of clickbaity, non-news or fake news will be written and shared. In the case of the readers, it comes down to how engaged and informed they want to be on important topics. Unfortunately, many people don’t want to read or discuss difficult, real-world topics that are challenging. They’d rather watch puppies play or a video of people playing pranks. But again, that’s their choice and not the fault of the internet.
Here’s some of the good that the internet has done for the journalism industry.
- Increased access to readers. Where people may not have been able to get their hands on a print copy of the New York Times, they can now read every article online.
- Instantaneous feedback from readers as they can comment and react on social media to news articles.
- Access to education tools for (most) citizens. What I mean by this is – say you are reading an article and you come across the name, “Joe Schmo” but you have no idea who Joe is. With the internet, you can simultaneously read the article and do a search, (or ask Siri or Google) who this Joe Schmo is.
- The internet provides a larger swath of voices in the news or article creation process. Credentialed journalists can easily connect with citizen journalists and use tweets or YouTube videos to enhance their stories.
- The ability to use crowd-source fact-checking in real time. People can read an article and easily search for factual discrepancies or compare it with another article on the same topic.
- Cost effective distribution model. Instead of spending money on printing, and delivery, media companies can spend money on writers and their content.
- The access to Data. Now this may be the biggest positive, (again it can be looked at as a negative depending on the motives of the media) as data can provide a glimpse into who the readers are and what they are actually reading. Access to this type of information helps the media deliver their content to the right people. They can use demographic data to actually target their stories to the people who would take interest. It also provides information for their stories. For example, thanks to Adobe Digital Insights journalists were able to find out that this past CyberMonday was indeed the largest day in the history of US e-commerce as sales were up 12% last year reaching 3.45 billion!
The Internet allows for journalism to evolve towards a conversation rather than a distribution of curated news. Allows for a larger, more representative panel of “journalists,” and for the distribution of empirical fact with demonstrable proof from digital data.
What do you think? In your opinion has the internet hurt or helped the media? Has it really killed true journalism?