The Future of Journalism: Bright or Bleak?

This week in BCM310 we have been discussing journalism and how the Internet and digital media technologies have led to a phenomenon known as ‘participatory journalism’ or ‘citizen journalism’.

Our traditional understanding of journalistic practices has been overrun by the increasing involvement of the everyday person in the creation and dissemination of news content. But what will be the impact of these changes on the journalistic profession and the means by which media content is produced and distributed? Should journalists and media corporations embrace participatory journalism as a positive force, or should they fear for the future of journalism?

Quandt (2011, pg 174) interviewed journalists about how they felt about the impact of participatory journalism on their field, noting that overall there is no ‘universal perceptions about participatory journalism’. However, Quandt does acknowledge a general divide between those journalists who see the benefits of user participation in journalistic production, and other journalists who are more concerned about how the validity, integrity and professionalism of journalism is being negatively impacted by citizen journalism.

I am now going to take a closer look at the mindset of each of these distinct camps.

JOURNALISM TRADITIONALISTS: “Not just anybody can call themselves a journalist!”

Journalism traditionalists fear the impact that citizen journalists will have on the integrity of journalism and see it as a ‘threat to traditional journalistic structures’ (Quandt 2011, pg 168). An article in the NY Times (Stetler 2009) identifies the issue of content validity using the example of protests in Iran. Stetler notes that many news organisations use information provided by citizens without checking the source’s legitimacy. Whilst the volume of content available to journalists is great, it is difficult for journalists to filter through this content, verify its integrity and ‘discern what is relevant and what is not’ (Quandt 2011, pg 167).

PARTICIPATORY EVANGELISTS: “Citizen journalists provide us with content and make journalism more democratic!”

On the opposite side of the argument are those that see the availability of user-generated content as an aid to the democratic process and a positive benefit to journalism. New York Times media writer David Carr is a strong proponent of citizen journalism, identifying that social media provides the public with the ability to act as ‘watchdogs’ of official news outlets by ‘correcting mistakes and false information’ (Ingram 2012).

So where do I stand? I believe that the rise of citizen journalism is inevitable. Therefore, the positive benefits that these changes provide should be embraced, whilst systems and procedures need to be developed in order to manage any negative implications. These changes require journalists to be dynamic and to make a concerted attempt to adapt to the changes in their field.

How will they handle their online future?

Thanks for reading,

Katie

References:

  • Quandt, T 2011, ‘Understanding a New Phenomenon: the significance of participatory journalism’, Chapter 9 in Hermida et al Participatory Journalism, Wiley Blackwell pp155-176
  • Ingram, Mathew 2012, ‘David Carr on newspapers, Twitter and citizen journalism’, Gigaom,  September 14, accessed 10/4/2013 via here
  • Stetler, B 2009, ‘Journalism Rules are Bent in News Coverage From Iran’, The New York Times, June 28, accessed 10/4/2013 via here
  • Image sourced from here.

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