The impact of technology has changed the landscape of journalism considerably. The advent of the internet had a profound effect on the newspaper industry due to the barrage of online access to content. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe struggled to retain readers who could access content for free online. To keep afloat newspapers there was a transition to online distribution. This transition changed the process of creating news.
Dean Baquet, editor of the New York Times, described the change of the industry. “Reporters will cover their subjects or regions without concern for where their stories land in the print paper, thus allowing them to take on subjects that do not need to be neatly categorized. Their editor, free from worry about filling specific print pages, can say yes to a much wider range of story ideas that do not fit the old print architecture.” Writers no longer had a “beat” but took on whatever they could to create as much content as possible from as many perspectives as possible.
With so much pressure to post fresh news content quickly, there is less opportunity to check sources, fact-check content and proof-read. An online article with false information can circulate quickly and proliferate into more and more misleading news. The result is less reliable news. The recent scandal of Fake News on social media sites is attributable to the circulation of this false information.
Obsoletion of Impartiality
Another impact of technology on journalism is the increase in opinion throughout reporting. The high amount of content on the internet means every article has to fight its way to the spotlight.
An article on a hot topic has to be from a new or fresh perspective to gather interest. This translates to more and more opinionated reporting, which conflicts directly with a journalist’s obligation to remain unbiased. However, the most popular sites, articles and content are opinion based and often even have one sided, strongly biased arguments. These journalistically-unethical articles are beating out traditional news pieces sticking to their objective guns.
In response, a lot of traditional news sites are adding in opinion news pieces. Some point to this movement as an evolution of journalism, from impartiality to indirect impartiality gained via a slew of opinions.
Journalists are bound by a code of ethics defined by four principles. These principles are Seek Truth and Report It, Minimize Harm, Act Independently, and Be Accountable and Transparent. These principles include the duty to provide well sourced, accurate information in the correct context, and support the open and civil exchange of views.
Journalists are bound to balance the right of the public to information with the right of the people affected. The journalist must be impartial, balancing all views appropriately. Journalists must correct any errors in accuracy, clarity, and fairness with haste.
The formal media has just as strong of a responsibility to maintain the integrity of their writing and content as it was before the age of the internet media. However, there are novel challenges to doing this. With the pressure to post quickly, news content becomes rushed and un-polished. An article, once released into the depths of the internet, can never be retrieved. The pressure to post could also lead to presenting biased work, inaccurate or false information. Any corrections to the news are more difficult due to the unpredictable flow of article sharing. Journalists must adapt to the new era in order to succeed.
The greatest challenge in the new age of the technological media is the representation of viewpoints through journalism. The media has always been a funnel- balancing and distilling information for the public.
This is still the case today. However, the media has a much greater job to do. Representation of viewpoints no longer means simply presenting both sides of the story. There are more than two viewpoints in the modern world, a vast spectrum of ideas that span from left to right and everywhere in between. Journalists can’t be expected to represent every idea, but they should be expected to continue to funnel the information in a constructive way. Not every view has the same weight and merit.
Journalism is only going to get more digitalized in the future. As John Oliver said in his episode of Last Week Tonight on Journalism, “We’ve just grown accustomed to getting our news for free. And the longer that we get something for free, the less willing we are to pay for it.”
The media will adapt to the fast-paced immediately-accessible data scene on social media. Professional journalism will stray farther and farther away from their code of ethics and standards of practice in order to compete with the unscrupulous headline-grabbing news. Articles will likely become more opinionated and readers will have to gather several sources on a topic instead of trusting one viewpoint in order to gain their impartiality.