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Is journalism still a morally strong career, or could online have cheapened it? We all know that in order to shine online one needs to first gather several views, likes, shares and build an online community around it. What is worrying about this is that journalists now have the temptation of prioritising views, likes and comments through any means. From catering to readers that skim through articles to putting speed in front of quality or in-depth pieces. Speed is becoming more and more important, as Justin Lewis (et al) described:

“The ability to get to a story first, is, after all, deeply ingrained in the competitive ethos of journalism. But if the ‘‘scoop’’ was once journalism’s Holy Grail, the move to a 24-hour news culture has replaced it with a desire for immediacy.” (Immediacy, Convenience or Engagement? An analysis of 24-hour news channels in the UK, P466)

It’s a race against time to be the first to post something online. Regardless of which article has the greatest depth, it will be at a disadvantage to the website that clicked the post button first and split it into disgestable bites. The general advice being:

“Keep page content short and punchy and split any detailed content out into secondary pages if applicable – with the limited attention span and desire for instant gratification of the modern day internet consumer just seeing the scroll bar shrink into oblivion can be enough for them to not even start reading a page.” The Guardian.

Several journalists are now writing less in-depth online in order to keep the interest of their audience, which is not a tragedy as journalists have always been expected to be to the point and follow the inverted pyramid scheme of news in which the reader can get the important information in the first few paragraphs. The problem in this is that as speed and views are more important now, many journalists will try to bend to the will of the largest groups in their audience in order to scrape more views and likes rather than report objectively. They are now thinking ‘will the bulk of my readers like this enough to share, will it be well received?’ instead of wanting to report news regardless of its entertainment value as it needs to be heard.

Of course, online allows everyone to tackle journalism differently, just as there are journalists that bend completely to the will of their audience there are also journalists that take pride in their journalistic duties and decisions, doing journalism for journalism’s sake rather than for views or likes – whether the majority of the public agree with it or not.

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(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net )

 Online journalism has introduced new ways of improving the industry but has also added a group of superficial journalists that aim to gather likes and comments by rushing to be the first to post and hyperlink, sometimes without even checking the facts porperly and some that regurgitate other’s artciles to keep up their quota. Of course not all journalists take this route, the intense competition online has also pushed some journalists to put more effort into their work, creating a new breed of multi-skilled journalists.

Multi-skilled journalists know how to blog, edit videos and several other skills often seen in a computer orientated career in order to be recognised and push the bar higher. A picture (or video) speaks a thousand words, especially online where a reader’s attention span is not as high compared to print.

Youtube is a good example of videos that, with a good amount of views, can make one famous overnight. New bloggers can often even gain more views then professionals. Journalism seems to now work in a similar way, the number of clicks  is a measure for success and in turn has allowed journalism to add further importance to giving the audience what they want rather than what they need or should hear. An excellent quote to express this differently is:

“The increasing market orientation of news-oriented media has meant that all but the public service broadcasting sector have been more concerned with chasing audiences then presenting what many call quality news. The days when reporters got stories because they were good stories that people ought to read have now almost completely gone and stories are now gathered because they will interest the target audience and tempt them to buy the magazine or newspaper.” C, Frost. Journalism Ethics and Regulation 3rd ed.Page 35

Considering this, and the fact that the audience has a new form of control online that allows them to be heard either in criticism or producing their own form of journalism, it seems to have become more about money than ever before as several journalists now struggle to gain enough money online, causing many to change their priorities in order to be able to keep writing. This has also altered their relationship with the audience.

However, Frost’s claim that the public service broadcasting sector is the only form of journalism that has not become superficial seems to be an overstatement as online has given each journalist the ability to handle their own ideal journalism differently – there are far too many different journalists with different skills sets and morals to lump them altogether. I believe that big news organisations are inevitably becoming far more market orientated and more keen on ‘fan service’ over morally strong and truthful journalist that often go unnoticed.

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2 thoughts on “Superficial journalism

  1. Pingback: The Digital Narrative | Online Journalism

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