I have recently re-joined the world of academia after spending three years as a journalist. As a result I have been weighing up the pros and cons of each and I would be interested to hear anyone else’s thoughts. Below are a few ideas about some of the ways the internet has changed journalism.
The best-seller in journalism has always been the base product, the “facts”. The biggest news agencies, like AFP, Reuters, and AP, sell what they call “pure news” or “just the facts”. Facts come in all shapes and sizes but the most prized facts are those that can earn someone money. Most of the big agencies grew from financial news outlets to general news outlets and financial journalism remains the bedrock of the industry.
The internet has changed the way that we approach general news. It has become more accessible to everyday people, i.e. those that aren’t qualified journalists, in three ways. Firstly platforms such as twitter have made it easier for people to publish information to a wide audience; anyone that is the first to see an event can become a news-breaker through a tweet re-tweet. Secondly aggregators have made it easier for people to find news and distribute it to other people and thirdly comment areas and forums have allowed people to dispute and debate what they read in the news.
Although the biggest news agencies had to adapt to the changes, they were not, as general news outlets, forced to rethink their whole strategy. They continue to produce “facts” and rely on their reputation for doing this the quickest and the most accurately to get them through. They continue to sell their facts and their news and there are no outlets in which they can be debated with the journalist who produced them. The journalist remains hidden, his work is uncontested, and in this way the facts they produce retain their status as a pure fact. The journalist’s opinion is final and the myth that the journalist’s opinion is a cut above the rest is upheld.
By putting their work behind a paywall the journalists at The Times have perpetuated “the authority of the journalist” myth, whilst the Guardian has gone the other way and opened up all of their journalism to debate and comment (In this way they gain as much exposure as possible and attract revenue). This brings their journalism much closer to the world of academia where everything is up for debate.