A worry that always crosses my mind is how I will find work after I finish up my degree. Many argue that journalism is a dying profession. This is due to numerous reasons, such as the rise of the internet, falling readership of print media, and citizen journalists. But is there hope for us yet? I think there is. While our media landscape is changing, I don’t believe it is dying. Young people seem to be more engaged with news than ever before, thanks to social media. However, the problem is that no one wants to pay for anything online. People expect to be able to watch TV shows and films, download PDF files of their textbooks, and to be able to read the news in real-time, all without paying a penny.
Most people are more likely to read a free online article from the Independent.ie or The Guardian, rather than pay a subscription to access all the Irish Times has to offer. While I love reading in-depth analysis of current affairs or investigative journalism, it seems that this is being sacrificed in order to give the people what they want- rapid news. This means the quality of the journalism we are given is lesser than it should be, I am always annoyed to see typos made in online articles. But I also understand that these journalists are under intense pressures, unlike any journalists that have gone before them. Many online newsroom conferences start at four AM. People have less time for fact-checking and editing, as pointed out by Rebecca Sian Wyde in her article published by the Guardian. And to illustrate my point, scroll to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see the Guardian asking very nicely for a donation. Even twenty years ago, this would have been unthinkable, that advertising revenue for print media has fallen so rapidly that established media outlets are resorting to asking their readers for funds. Reuters Institute’s report on the future of journalistic work also points out that less journalists are being paid to do the same job, with more time pressure and worse hours.
It’s a vicious cycle because if your media outlet requires a subscription (however small) in order to view content, readership falls. But if you rely on online advertising revenue, the quality of the journalism may fall- see the rise in advertorials, which are advertisements written in a journalistic style. The power of digital media cannot be ignored. According to a 2016 PEW Research Center study, digital news consumption is second only to TV.
The media have also suffered quite a bashing since the turn of the century. The News International phone-hacking scandal in Britain showed the frenzy of tabloid journalism, the push to get the story out there first, and the breaking of the ethical codes journalists should adhere to. Trump’s administration also have an extreme aversion to the press, which only fuels the mistrust of the established media. Newsflash: an opinion piece that you disagree with isn’t “fake news”, “alternative facts” are simply lies, and if the administration were any way competent, they would have used the media to drum up public support, instead of launching attacks at press conference and shouting down individual journalists. You know it’s pretty dire when Bernstein, one of the journalists who brought down Nixon, thinks Trump’s relationship with the press is more dangerous than Nixon’s.
The advent of “fake news” as a recent phenomenon, however, signals an opportunity for journalism to re-establish itself as the monitor of power, the voice of the people, and the upholders of free speech. Anyone can be a citizen journalist and claim to be professing the truth in anonymous forums, or set up their own “news” website, driven by their own ideologies and beliefs. Anyone can write anything nowadays, as people seem to think slander and libel don’t apply online. Katie Hopkins, infamous Mail Online “columnist” (a term here which is used loosely), was in for a rude awakening when she was slapped in the face with a libel lawsuit, and was forced to pay out £24,000 in damages. Luckily, most people do not regard Hopkins as a journalist at all, which shows people still do want bread-and-butter journalism; like opinion, sport, news, crime, and features. People crave well-written analysis still, which is encouraging to see.