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The future of journalism. Is it all bad?
Friday, 30 May 2014 01:00

The future of journalism. Is it all bad?

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The advent of the internet threw the business model of newspapers into complete crisis. That we know. And ever since, doomsayers have heralded the end of professional journalism while media organisations have scrambled to survive.

But what if we are not witnessing the end of high quality news journalism? What if we are seeing the beginnings of a new golden era for journalism?

We can't ignore or belittle the reality of journalist cut backs in a myriad of media organisations around the world. I have witnessed this at close quarters in the UK and Australia, and it saddens me because people's livelihoods have been put at stake and I, more than anyone, want to see a strong and thriving news media.

So yes, there have been high-profile examples of iconic news organisations cutting back or shutting down as advertising is more broadly dispersed, hammering the business model of newspapers. However, the internet age has led to fantastic opportunities for news organisations. For one thing, it has made the world smaller. No longer is a national newspaper confined to country boarders, it can now reach new audiences around the world. Top international titles such as the New York Times, Guardian, and The Times are rapidly increasing their readership globally.

Take the example of the Guardian - with 18.7 million monthly unique U.S. viewers in April, according to ComScore data, the Guardian U.S. has boomed from its humble beginnings less than two years ago and has rapidly increased its US coverage and expanded the number of journalists working on US news. Not only this, the Guardian now offers an Australian edition and scoops such as breaking the Graham Snowden story have only fuelled the paper's global recognition and ambition. In short, the Guardian is flourishing in the internet age. Whereas once it was the left-leaning paper for the UK, it is fast becoming the left-leaning paper for the world.

The internet and subsequent rise of social media technology has fuelled a mind-blowing array of alternative news making, and sharing, resources such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Bloomberg LP, Google, digital news and information sites, YouTube, the list goes on. Social media has been hugely disruptive to traditional media organisations while conversely providing new channels through which to promote their content and reach new audiences.

The ubiquity of smart phones, and our collective addiction to them, mean that many of us are constantly scanning news and consuming it in new and interesting ways. Newspapers (while I do love them) are dirty, cumbersome and, frankly, quite a commitment. Flicking through news on your smart phone is not. A number of my friends who were previously news-illiterate now read news on a daily basis simply because it is easy to access.

The internet has provided us all with a huge array of choice. From the New York Times, to the New Zealand Herald, I read news from around the world, all while flicking between my favourite radio stations. Sometimes I take in the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 and when I am in the mood for something lighter, there is always Swing FM, a jazz station based in Paris. What wonderful plurality technology has brought, all at the click of an app.

Surely the wellbeing of journalism should be judged by the level at which important facts are being unearthed, and shared, and important stories are told. Our new found connectedness means we are all better informed then we once were.

The rise of citizen journalism is also an exciting, disruptive development. Some very credible and powerful bloggers have emerged who are hugely respected and who have attracted a wide audience. Sure, there is justifiable concern that untrained journalists may not be as careful with fact checking which provides yet another opportunity for trusted news sources.

Media organisations are increasingly pulling back from the early model of providing all of their content for free online and various paywall models are in place among international newspapers. High quality news is a product that people will pay for and with a global market of consumers, surely media organisations can settle on a profitable approach.

Yes the internet has been disruptive but it has brought with it so much opportunity and certainly as news consumers, we've never had it so good.

Read 43019 times Last modified on Friday, 30 May 2014 15:36

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